I grew up in the 1960s in a conservative Roman Catholic community in the Midwest. At that time, there were no widespread campaigns about drug and alcohol abuse; no one talked to kids about the dangers of either. There was a brewery in town where many of the residents worked, and everyone drank, frequently to excess. Yet, no conversations about alcoholism ever took place. Due to the lack of communication, I never thought that drinking heavily was a problem. There were no consequences that children were aware of. No one got DUIs: If someone got pulled over, they were frequently just escorted home by the local police. It seemed fun, carefree. People talked about getting drunk, but never in a way that made it seem negative. As a result, I fell into a pattern of alcohol abuse that wreaked havoc on my life for many years, before eventually finding personal recovery. Today, kids have the benefit of anti-drug and alcohol campaigns that permeate the media, but that’s not enough. We need to talk to our kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, particularly if we or other family members have struggled with addiction. My father was an alcoholic, my mom’s father was an alcoholic as was my father’s father, and both of my uncles were alcoholics, and, yet, no one ever talked about it. According to research: “Alcohol dependence and dependence on other drugs frequently co-occur, and strong evidence suggests that both disorders are, at least in part, influenced by genetic factors. In recent years, researchers have identified numerous genes as affecting risk for dependence on alcohol and drugs. These include genes involved in alcohol metabolism as well as in the transmission of nerve cell signals and modulation of nerve cell activity.” (“The Genetics of Alcohol and Other Drug Dependence,” Danielle M. Dick, Ph.D., and Arpana Agrawal, Ph.D.) Considering this data, it’s critically important to talk to our kids early and often about drugs and alcohol. Below, we list four key tips on how to talk to your kids about drug abuse:
- Build Strong Relationships: We need to build strong relationships with our kids, because the message is only as strong as the relationship.
- Reinforce Self-Esteem: Kids need to have their sense of self and self-esteem reinforced from a young age to enable them better cope with peer pressure that can lead to using drugs and alcohol.
- Create an Open, Loving Enviroment: We need to create open, loving environments that make our children feel comfortable about communicating problems they may be encountering so we can help them develop healthy coping mechanisms.
- Talk Often: One talk about substance abuse may not be enough. As your kids change, so do their opinions of drugs. Be sure to communicate frequently about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This is not a discussion that ends in high school.
Following these tips can certainly lead to an more effective parent/child discussion on the dangers of drug abuse. Remember, build a strong relationship with your child, reinforce their self-esteem, create an open, loving environment, and above all, talk often! …………………… Rob Deffendall Case Manager Turnbridge 203-937-2309 firstname.lastname@example.org