Research has shown that programs like DARE and “Just Say No” have been ineffective at teaching children about handling the issues around drinking and using other drugs. It is also evident that having a supportive, honest relationship with your kids will most likely set them up for success. Here is how not to talk to your kids about drugs.
How NOT to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs: Don’t Focus on the Negative
Instead, start the conversation out by focusing on the positive. Be respectful and honest in praising your child’s positive behaviors. Perhaps mention specific incidents that you as a parent were especially proud of. Think of it as a sort of “pros and cons” discussion and start out with the “pros” this way your child’s “pros” column starts out loaded with credits. Then lead into what potential negative behaviors might arise, such as drug use, and discuss how these things are unhealthy, dishonest, and untrustworthy.
For example, address your child by name and say “you are a reliable son/daughter. I see that you are conscientious in school, respectful of your family and friends and we have always been able to trust you and your decisions. I hope that my confidence in your good judgment will not be compromised when it comes to making the proper choice about drinking or using drugs.”
How NOT to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs: Don’t Be Wishy-Washy
Work with your child on both your expectations and theirs and form a sort of pact or contract between the two of you. Without a concrete plan to revisit, unclear intentions are hard to enforce and all that is left is resentment and anger between you and your child.
For example, if your child is going out for the evening with friends, ask them how they see the night unfolding and what their plans are if they find themselves in a situation where drugs and alcohol are present. If they seem nonchalant, or say that “nothing like that will happen,” let them know you are glad and relieved but, you would like a plan nonetheless and to please indulge you even if it seems silly. This way, you can to hold your child accountable for their actions or lack thereof with a plan that they have previously agreed to.
How NOT to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs: Don’t Threaten Them
If your child knows you have a drug test and that you may test them at any time, that’s usually enough to keep them on the straight and narrow. It’s not helpful to threaten that every time they come back from a party you will test them. The element of surprise or spontaneity is much more effective, anyway.
The same is true for a breathalyzer that detects alcohol consumption. Chances are you will be able to smell alcohol on your child’s breath and a breathalyzer won’t be necessary. Keep it for the times when you are not quite sure if your child has actually had something to drink.
How NOT to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs: Don’t Be So Quick to Bail Them Out
Talking to your kids about drinking and driving is, of course, important. And having a plan, like mentioned above is especially important when it comes to talking to your child of driving age or who has friends that drive. If they’re going to a party or other social event and they know that you will come pick them up, regardless of the hour, in a way, this gives them permission to drink or use and in an irresponsible way. Have a plan ahead of time that they agree to sleep over someone’s house or have their own money to pay for a cab.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.