Friday, October 31, 2014

Should we talk to YOUNG children about substance abuse?...

Young children are impressionable and their decision-making and problem-solving skills develop early. As they grow they begin to think about the world outside their home and need help discerning what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and why some things are bad. Kids also become curious and want to know how things work. The older they get the more likely they will be to see and hear about substance abuse. According the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) in 2007, a study showed the #1 concern of kids today is drug use. Kids want, but especially NEED to hear from their parents. 
Why Kids May Use Drugs:       

·  Boredom                             ·  Relieve stress                       ·  Curiosity

·  Have fun                      ·  Feel good                              ·  Take risks

·  Look cool                             · Ease pain                              · Feel grown-up

· Show independence         · Belong to a group
Kids are IMPRESSIONABLE. They have multiple sources influencing them a day, many of which give positive drug associations: Music, movies, TV, commercials, billboards, magazines, advertisements, websites, even the placement of products in stores draws the attention of children to substances as normal, acceptable, even an expected part of society. The older they get the more they will see, hear about, and even be offered drugs. To prepare your child for the pressures they will face, talk to them early about the danger of using drugs and alcohol and help them know how to say “No.”

Kids NEED and WANT to hear from their parents. Despite the influence of peers, media, and pop-culture, parents still rank #1 as the greatest influence in their child’s life! Parents therefore have the greatest opportunity of anyone to influence their child’s perception of drug and alcohol use.
· Spend quality time with your child

· Ask them what they know about drugs

· Listen and keep a calm tone

· Teach them effects of drugs on the body

· Be clear where you stand on drugs
Children who know their parents care are less likely to use drugs or alcohol. Beliefs and habits form early in kids. So the substance abuse conversation needs to start early. USDE also stated that one of the main considerations of kids in contemplating a dangerous activity is "What would my parents think?" 

Kids are Curious. A recovering illicit drug user commented that when growing up what he heard was, "Drugs are bad, don't do drugs" but never WHY drugs are bad. Being vague can create a greater curiosity. Don't be afraid that talking to your child about drugs will put ideas in their head. Studies prove that kids who have heard about the harms of substance abuse are much less likely to use drugs (a study referenced by USDE).
Why drugs are bad:

· Hurt the brain            · Damage the body

· Make you sick           · Lead to bad decisions

· Addictive                   · Illegal
You may be wondering, "What should I say to my child about drugs and alcohol?" When approaching these conversations remember, you know your child best. Use language that's appropriate for their age and maturity level. Share details that are age appropriate, and remember that the purpose of having these conversations is to help prepare them for making good decisions as they grow. For very young children, begin by talking about the dangers of putting things in their body that aren't good for them which can make them sick. As they grow, begin to share information with them about specific substances like alcohol and tobacco. As they're ready to process more information, develop the conversation and share more details. When they ask questions, answer them honestly and in a language they can understand.

Take advantage of the following teachable moments to casually share the dangers of alcohol and other drug use with your young children:
· Commercials, television shows, music and movies often include substance-related content. This is a good opportunity to find out what your child knows about these things. Ask questions and share what you know.
· News stories are opportunities to show real life examples of the dangers and consequences of drug use. If/when this type of news catches your child’s attention, talk about it.
· Many kids see alcohol and tobacco use exhibited by adults in their lives. When they encounter these behaviors, talk openly with your kids about the risks involved, and set expectations for adults in your child’s life to model appropriate behaviors. (You too!)

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