How to Talk to Your Child About Addiction
No parent wants to see their child become a victim of addiction, however, certain risk factors may contribute to the likelihood of one developing. Especially if a child grows up in a household with one or both parents who abuse substances, they are more than twice as likely to develop an alcohol or drug addiction themselves by the time they reach young adulthood.
No matter what role illicit substances have played in yours or your child’s life (if any), it’s important to have an open, honest conversation with your children in order to help them understand the risks and consequences of drug abuse. In addition to open communication, there are many things you as a parent can do to help prevent substance use among your children.
Build a close relationship early on
Although a child’s friends often seem to be their prime influencers, parents still have sway with their teenagers.
Parents should begin the conversation about substance abuse and addiction while the child is young, in developmentally appropriate ways. Establishing and maintaining a close and loving, yet non-controlling relationship will also help prevent friction later when you will need to monitor your child’s behavior and social life as they gain independence.
Discuss things you have in common with your child, such as sports, movies and art, and frequently talk about life events. Show an interest and take part in the hobbies and activities in which they participate.
When conflicts arise, keep your anger in check. Speak calmly but firmly, and remember to offer encouragement and positive feedback. Frequent arguments or unreasonable punishment can weaken relationships, increase rebellious actions and potentially increase the risk for substance use.
Keep the conversation going
Talk to your child about addiction and the risks of drug and alcohol use on a regular basis.
If you have a healthy, connected relationship with your child, they’re likely to respect your opinion. If this is the case, you can be honest with them about your thoughts and fears of taking drugs or underage drinking. Your feelings about underage drinking and drug use can help reduce the chances that your child will experiment with substances in their teen years, especially if you treat them like an adult as you have these conversations.
Don’t lecture your child, but do communicate the health and safety risks of teen alcohol and drug use. Help them understand why other people may turn to substances, but encourage your teen to instead be open to counseling or other effective methods of coping with life’s challenges. They will remember what you’ve said, and the perception of substances as being harmful can help your child form their own healthy thoughts around the subject.
After all, you want them to reject substance use because of their own conclusions and morals and not simply because “My parents told me so.” If the decision comes from within themselves, it will ultimately be longer lasting and stronger in the face of temptation.
Helping prevent addiction among teens
If you’re unsure of how to begin a conversation about addiction with your child, a good place to start is to simply ask, “Has anyone ever offered you drugs or alcohol?”
Instead of asking questions about your child’s personal use, this question may open up a discussion about:
- Why people drink or use drugs;
- What your child’s feelings are about drug use;
- Why they should avoid using substances;
- Ways to use social skills to refuse alcohol and drugs.
Protecting your child from addiction to substances means creating the right environment at home that includes open conversation, modeling appropriate behavior and taking action when necessary. Be a good listener, provide clear messages about not using drugs or alcohol, help your child learn ways to deal with peer pressure, supervise teen activities and be aware of where your child goes and who they spend their time with.
Additional resources for raising awareness
Parenting is challenging and sometimes teens require the opinions of others in addition to their parents’. For this reason, it could be beneficial to seek out the counseling services of a professional trained in family and teen counseling. Even if your teen does not struggle with addiction, the guidance of a counselor can reinforce lessons being taught at home and strengthen healthy coping mechanisms while dealing with teenage years.
To speak with a counselor today, contact Pyramid Healthcare anytime at 888-694-9996.
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