Parenting is hard.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, your kids change ages and stages and you’re right back where you were at the beginning: overwhelmed, underprepared, trying to figure out how to navigate the waters.
I was pushed back to that “beginning” this summer as we attended Freshman Orientation for the Girl. After the How to Survive Your Freshman Year and Be a Successful High School Student presentation from the administrators, the students left the auditorium to tour the school. That’s when we parents heard the Kids Today Are Doing Big Drugs Which Results in Very Serious Consequences–and, Oh, BTW, They’re Also Going to Extreme and Dangerous Measures to Get High presentation from the local sheriff and two detectives.
As it turns out, having been through this before didn’t give me a free pass on the ‘changing ages and stages’ thing because even if my kids haven’t changed, the environment has. As a high school teacher and experienced parent of teens, I’ve felt pretty savvy and aware of drug use–the surprising Whos, the scary Whats, the concerning Wheres, the unexpected Whens, the creative Hows, the myriad Whys.
I know many kids and adults start drug use and abuse with medicine–pain pills, ADD and ADHD meds, stimulants–but I learned something new during the presentation: Kids are now taking large doses of cough medicine to get high. It’s called robot ripping, skittling, or dexing (dextromethorphan is the active ingredient found in most over-the-counter cough suppresant cold medicines). So, right under our noses, with completely legal substances, our kids can get high possibly starting a drug habit which could lead to addiction.
This is serious–for parents, for kids, for our families.
That’s why I wanted to attend a forum by Stop Medicine Abuse to learn more; I can help my kids understand the dangers of medicine abuse–and I can share information with other parents. It works out perfectly since October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month.
The best piece of information I learned? Teens whose parents communicate with them about drugs are half as likely to abuse them. That means we need to talk with our kids about drugs. That’s not always easy and we don’t always know HOW to do that or what to say. Lucky for me–and you–the panel of experts from the forum shared helpful tips for parents to effectively communicate with kids about drug use and abuse. I compiled my Top Five Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Drugs. Knowledge is Power!!
Top 5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids about Drugs:
1. You need to be a credible source of information. Don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t dramaticize. Just be honest and tell the truth. Your kids will know they can trust you and they’ll be more likely to ask questions because they know they can rely on you and what you say.
2. Don’t put down the people who use drugs. We don’t want to judge our kids’ peers and speak negatively about them because our kids will become defensive and not be open to our communication–even if they’re not really friends with the kids we’re using as examples. Talk about the negative and unpleasant consequences of drug use (“you get sloppy,” or “you don’t have control over your body or thoughts”) without denigrating the people who use them. Talk about the negative actions, not about the person.
3. Don’t dumb things down. Our kids are smart and understand a lot more than we often think they do. We obviously want to have age appropriate conversations, but we need to recognize that they understand and can process more information than we might expect. They’ll feel respected and appreciated which will also keep them engaged in the conversation.
4. Talk. Don’t lecture. Make your communication a conversation where you’re both involved. Don’t just talk AT your child; ask questions and listen to their answers.
- “Are you aware of …?”
- “Do you know people who are doing …?”
- “What do you know about …?”
- “What would you do if …?”
You can better determine what you should talk about and how deeply to discuss matters with your child based on their answers.
5. Empower your kids to problem solve and make decisions. We need to have these conversations with our kids so they can make informed decisions when they’re on their own. We aren’t always able to be with them, so we need to do our best to prepare them for when they’re faced with difficult situations and decisions. Engage them early. Play out scenarios. Let them tell you what they would do in different situations; ask questions to help them think through details rather than tell them what to do. We need to feel comfortable that our kids will know what to do just as much as they need to feel confident making difficult decisions and solving problems.
Parenting is hard.
With the right tools and resources, it can be less so. For more tips and information, visit stopmedicineabuse.org.
On Twitter: @StopMedAbuse
On Facebook: /stopmedicineabuse
Join the conversation and get the facts.
This blog post is sponsored by the CHPA’s Stop Medicine Abuse educational program. I was compensated to attend the event (or participate online) but all opinions here are my own.