The issue of drugs can be very confusing to young children. How does a parent help kids to distinguish fact from fiction? What’s a good age to start talking about this? As parents, how do we talk to our kids about this subject? Adelphi University’s Dr. Audrey Freshman, Ph.D., LCSW, CASAC has written 5 tips to make engaging with your child easier.
#1 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO DISCUSS HOW TO TOLERATE NEGATIVE FEELINGS
Helping a child to navigate the world of drugs and alcohol starts early on in a child’s life. Drug prevention begins with a child’s ability to gain life skills. Essential is the need to self-regulate emotional states and to manage uncomfortable feelings of anger, sadness, boredom and frustration without resorting to immediate escape. It is important to teach a child that their negative feelings will pass and to model ways to cope through exercise, relaxation and healthy diversion.
#2 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO BEGIN DRUG EDUCATION
Children of all ages are exposed to the helpful benefits of medication. They witness commercials advertising pain and psychological relief aides. It is important to differentiate the correct way to take medication, to use medication as prescribed, to supervise the use of medication in an age-appropriate way, to discard bottles once treatment is over. Help your child to understand proper use of medication, what drugs are not safe to take (e.g. unprescribed opiates or stimulants) and define abusive use of medications. The same way we teach children not to drink bleach we must teach them never to take someone else’s pills or to give their own away.
#3 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL REFUSAL SKILLS
It is very difficult, particularly as the child gets older to resist peer-pressures and still feel socially connected to a peer group. Identify the dilemma for your child and practice ways to say “no” to drugs and alcohol in advance of a party or social event. If you worry that your child will be at-risk in a social setting, such as a concert, plan in advance to set parameters for safety e.g. curfew, transportation home. Remember, you are a parent and not a friend so stay in your role as supervisor.
#4 DRUG PREVENTION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR
Studies show that the more meals a family eats together the less likely a child is to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It is vital to plan family time in a structured and prescribed manner so that a child is aware of a time to talk about issues of the day. A child will assimilate the goals and expectations of the family and internalize them as they gain independence through modeled behavior. Try not to drink alcohol each night in front of your child and then expect them to refuse alcohol when their friends offer.
#5 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE VALUE OF SEEKING HELPFUL ADVICE
Hopefully your child may never need counseling. However, if and when they do, you want it to be a positive experience and not one that they resist and must be forced into. From the outset, emphasize the positive value in seeking help and/or counseling when confused. Resist the message that seeking help is a sign of weakness but rather one of strength. We can all benefit from “coaching” when we wish to learn a new skills, or plan a life direction, or encounter a difficult time in our lives. Help your child to embrace help from an Opioid Addiction Recovery Center.
For more information please visit bit.ly/CHIPoll
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Adelphi University. The opinions and text are all mine.