Shocking fact of the week: more than 24.6 million people in the U.S. are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. That's about one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12. That's right - even pre-teens struggle with drug and alcohol addictions.
Don't know how to start the conversation about this with your kids? Here's some advice from medical experts on how to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol.
At what age should you start talking with your child about drugs and alcohol?
Kids are less likely to use drugs when parents provide guidance and clear rules about not using drugs, don’t use drugs themselves and spend quality time having meaningful conversations. Parents should start having the conversation with their kids about drugs and the dangers of drugs during the elementary school years. Even for preschool children, it’s not too early to teach them to take care of their body and make good decisions.
What are some things you should say when speaking to your kids about drugs and alcohol?
Make sure you directly state what your house rules are regarding drug and alcohol use - don't leave space for wiggle room. But let your kids know that you are there if they have any questions or concerns.
Also, educate your kids about the harmful effects drugs and alcohol have on their brains, bodies and their ability to learn and play sports. Teach your kids how to say no. Give them the words to use and role-play conversations they may have with their peers. They can say things like, "No. I'm not into that." Or "My parents would ground me forever so I can't." Tell your kids that it's ok to blame you if it helps. Also, remind your child that real friends will never ask them to do something that is unsafe or that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Anything you should never say?
Never give your kids an out or an excuse to try drugs. Don't say things like, "everyone experiments." Also, don't praise other kids as being cool or popular because you don't know what those kids are doing that your own children may try to emulate. Instead, praise your own kids for their hard work, good behavior and integrity.
What are some clues that a child may have a drug problem?
Warning signs may include behavior and physical changes. Behavior changes may include changes in mood, sleeping, eating, friendships and school performance. Physical signs your child may be using drugs or alcohol include having blood-shot eyes, losing or gaining weight, tremors, slurred speech and either smelling like smoke or wearing heavy perfume to cover it.
What steps should you take if you suspect your child has a drug problem?
Talk to your pediatrician or an addiction specialist if you think your child may have a drug problem. They can help you figure out the best way to confront your child, get them tested and treated. There are many treatment options available depending on what your child needs.