Talking About Drugs, Alcohol & Cigarettes

As a parent, you often worry about how your children are getting along in school, if they are making friends and getting good grades. Today'

s kids are growing up faster than ever before and there seems to be no limits on their adult-like behavior. Unfortunately, this behavior includes drugs, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

Facing Drug and Alcohol Issues Early
You may have never considered talking to your kids about such an adult topic before. After all, if your child is under the age of 10, you probably thought they had not encountered these life choices yet. But if you ever watch youth programming on television, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer are common issues that young people are dealing with everyday. National studies have shown that kids have often tried alcohol by age 11 and marijuana by age 12. Advocacy organizations are now encouraging people to talk to their kids earlier rather than later to prevent substance abuse.

Let Your Child Make Decisions From an Early Age
You want your child to feel comfortable making her own decisions because she will need to rely on her own judgment when you are not around and this can help her say no when it's important. Child educators advise parents to involve their toddlers in the decision-making process and let children make choices about their lives from a young age. An example could be that you let your child pick out their outfit for the school day or decide what kind of snack they would like to eat. Your child's confidence will grow when you praise them for good choices and they will learn to trust their own judgment. You can further increase a child's self confidence and skill reportoire by enrolling them in a fun activity or leisure sport.

Talk to Your Children about Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Up to about the age of seven, kids are very interested in how their bodies function and are curious about what adults do. You can use watching television as an opportunity to begin talking about drugs and alcohol abuse. Being open about drugs and alcohol will allow your child to feel comfortable talking to you about it. Ask your child questions about television shows that include drinking and drugs. You may want to start talking about how these substances harm the human body and are harmful to your health. You can mention that alcohol and drugs have side effects like:

  • Not being able to see, hear or walk correctly
  • Change how you feel and judge things
  • Can put you in danger in many situations

Try to keep these explanations simple so your child can easily understand them.

Becoming an Individual
From ages eight to 11, your child is getting older and you are now able to frankly discuss alcohol and drug abuse. This is the time that your child is developing their identity and individuality. You will want to discuss the effects of drinking and drugs on the body and mind and how people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Because your child may face peer pressure at school, they should know the harmful effects of smoking, how it damages your lungs, ages your skin and decreases stamina.

What to Say to Peer Pressure
You can discuss strategies to deal with peer pressure and smart comebacks to playground bullies, such as:

  • "Smoking makes you smell bad, your breath stink and your teeth yellow!"
  • "Why did you waste your money on that?"

You can discuss how friends that try to convince you to drink and smoke are not true friends anyway.

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
If you smoke yourself, it will be difficult to convince your child of the ill effects of smoking since they see you smoking every day. If you don't want your child to start, you should seriously consider quitting. If your child sees you having a glass of wine at dinner occasionally, you can carefully explain that you are an adult, you know the effects of alcohol and you are safe at home with family and friends. When you have friends over for a visit, you can offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks so your child does not think that you have to drink alcohol to relax. Be sure to tell your children that when someone has a problem with any type of addiction, it is a hard road back. This may include telling them about the different types of treatment, like home intervention or a rehab center near home.

"All the Cool Kids Are Doing It" 

By the time your child enters highschool, they should be well informed about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Your teenager should feel free to discuss many types of controversial issues with you without fear of being reprimanded or enduring a boring lecture. Equip your child with plenty of information about heavier drugs, like cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, as these may be discussed by other teens at school.

By now, your child has learned about the fatal effects of drinking and driving and drug addiction. You can provide some helpful replies if your child does encounter peer pressure about drinking and smoking. A simple 'No, thanks' should suffice to anyone offering liquor or street drugs. If that does not work, your teenager should simply leave the location. Make sure your child always has pocket change so he can call you at any time to be picked up.

An Active Participant in Life
Your child will be better able to deal with teen peer pressure by being an active participant in sports, clubs and other extra-curricular activities. Talk about how good it feels to be part of a club or organization, reaching for and achieving your goals. Talk about how strong mental and physical skills improve your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

It would be great if you can talk to your children about the dangers of alcohol addiction, but if your kids take up drinking anyway, you might need to call a hotline and ask for tips on how to deal with it.