Talking to Your Children About Addiction

man talking to son at skate park

There are many tough conversations parents and guardians need to have with children.

One involves drug and alcohol use and the perils of addiction.

Maybe your 2nd grader heard something on the playground. Perhaps you’ve noticed your teen’s behaviors are more unusual. Maybe an offhand comment about a relative at a family gathering raised questions with youngsters on the ride home. Perhaps you want to be open about your personal struggle with a substance use disorder.

No matter what the reason is, there are many resources to help you have a family meeting and an honest discussion about addiction.

Resources for Initiating the Conversation

As you know, sometimes talking to your kids about serious topics is hit and miss. If they’re not really concerned, they may not engage as much with you as you think they should. If there’s a problem, they might be even less inclined to pay attention. This is when educational materials, multimedia tools, and other resources help expand discussion possibilities.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Are you old enough to remember the fried egg public service announcement (PSA)? “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America during the height of the crack/cocaine epidemic in the 1980s, it was a novel start to “unsell” children on drugs and alcohol.

Now called the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, this non-profit organization works in education, prevention messaging, parent peer support, and legislation to change the landscape and awareness of substance abuse. It offers parents and guardians a number of detailed resources to help them know what to say during these crucial conversations.

To start, the organization recommends that you:

  • Keep dialogue honest and open without judgement.
  • Always speak from a place of love, no matter how hard the conversation may be.
  • Create a balance between positive and negative reinforcement.
  • Remember that teachable moments happen a lot, so react naturally when there’s an opening to reflect on the topic of alcohol or drugs.

The Partnership provides a “Drug Prevention Tips for Every Age” fact sheet, divided by demographics ranging from 2- to 4-years-old up to 19- to 25-years-old. In each age category are detailed cause and effect scenarios and discussion prompts.

Additionally, the organizational site features numerous educational tools, as well as a parent’s blog that covers a variety of topics so you can learn more.

Reflective of the changing times, the organization updated that infamous PSA in 2016 to help encourage more interaction between families.

Get Smart About Drugs
A more hard-hitting resource established by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Get Smart is the reality check you may not want to give your kids but know deep down that it may speak more clearly than you can. It covers news, trends, and statistics; drugs and paraphernalia; and consequences of substance abuse. Get Smart has an extensive list of prevention, treatment, and support resources for both drugs and alcohol in its Find Help section.

The DEA also created the comprehensive site Just Think Twice. Tailored specifically for the pre-teen and teen audience, it covers a variety of topics such as how substance abuse affects high school grades and research suggesting a link between drug use and energy drinks; as well as news items, such as a TV report from New Mexico about a 5th grader who unknowingly gave friends pot gummy edibles. These topics and stories pave the way to indirect conversations to learn more about how your child or teen perceives substance use, legalization, and other aspects.

The site also hosts contests, such as a chance for teens to produce the agency’s annual anti-drug PSA.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)
The stance of this government agency is that “positive parenting prevents drugs abuse.” This comprehensive site is designed to open a dialogue about drugs or alcohol, as well as explain probable causes contributing to addiction, the potential for hereditary risk factors, and addiction as a brain disease—all from a scientific foundation.

In the NIH Family Checkup, you’ll have access to a variety of detailed techniques outlined in a Q&A format to help you align your parenting approach with skills to manage this challenging aspect of life.

This site operates as a “toolkit to plan, host and moderate a conversation about drugs and addiction. We have gathered thoughtful and compelling homework and resources for your guests.”

Its interactive “Who’s Coming to Dinner” tool lets you customize access to resources based on your intention, the audience, and key topics. For example, you can divide the kids’ category by two demographics—9-12 and 13-18—or by other addiction topics. Let’s say you decide to choose an age range. Then, you’ll be able to select information to read, watch, and listen to with your children as conversation starters. These resources are age-appropriate, topical, and feature entertainment or sports figures young people often relate to easier than their relatives.
You’ll have to provide an email address to receive the kit.

Find Additional Support Through Willingway

Don’t be discouraged if your children fail to respond in the moment. They have to process everything in their way, and are probably listening more closely than you think. You may be driving to the grocery store together two weeks later and suddenly, there’s an avalanche of questions. Recognize that there’s probably not just one time you’ll have conversations like these.

And if your family needs help, our rehabilitation facility offers adolescent outpatient care for young people who may struggle with substance use, emotional difficulties, or the challenges of growing up. Positive treatment can be the turning point your child needs to make effective changes and set a course for a more fulfilling life.

To find out more about services offered by Willingway, including addiction treatment for adolescents in Georgia, contact The Pines at Willingway at 912-207-7227, and let us help you get started on the road to recovery.Willingway - Addiction Treatment Experts