Finding Opportunities to Talk About Addiction
One major roadblock for parents who want to talk about substance abuse with their children is they often don’t know where to start. Springing the topic up randomly can lead to awkward and tense conversations that are ineffective for the purpose of preventing substance abuse and addiction.
Talking about substance abuse puts everyone in a vulnerable position: parents don’t want to be perceived as stiff or judgemental and want their message to be heard; children and teens are embarrassed and would rather do just about anything other than talk to their parents about substance abuse, sex, or any “adult” topic.
So how do you broach this sensitive topic? What are the best means of finding opportunities to talk about addiction? Since October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol.
Educational Family Outings
If you want to educate your child on the dangers of substance abuse, why not make a day of it? Do a bit of research to find events, rallies, or volunteer opportunities in the addiction recovery community. These types of events aren’t limited to October; they occur year round and serve the dual purpose of educating your child and helping to spread awareness. Inquire at your child’s school about events they may host or resources they utilize in substance abuse prevention education. Being involved as a family will draw you closer and reinforce your message more than a simple, one-time talk.
Discussing Daily Events
Watching the news as a family helps develop altruistic thought and empathy in children. Though you may seek to shield your child from some of the more intense happenings in the world, watching the news or reading the paper can open the floor for important conversations. Even if you choose not to take this route, talking to your child about the events of their school day may offer an opportunity to discuss substance abuse. You may be surprised to learn the how much they are aware of and to what they are exposed.
When Watching TV or a Movie
Hollywood has a long and well-documented love affair with substance abuse, so why not use it to your advantage? Next time drug use or drinking appears on your small screen or at the theater, ask your child what they think about seeing these types of things. Starting with your child’s opinion gives them a sense of comfort and control in the situation while giving you valuable insight into their world view.
During Bonding Time
The next time you go out for ice cream, shopping, or to play at the park, consider talking to them about substance abuse. Bonding time between children and parents is perfect for these types of conversations because the atmosphere is one of relaxation, fun, and non-judgement. When you talk about this sensitive subject during bonding time your child is more likely to be honest as well as more likely to listen and retain what information you provide.
When Your Child Broaches the Topic
If your child comes to you asking questions or wanting to talk about substance abuse, do not ignore them or dismiss them. Odds are they are confused and seeking clarification from a trusted source- you. When they do broach the subject themselves, let them guide the conversation; ask them what they think and how they feel about substance abuse to make sure your response is helpful and well-received. And, if you aren’t prepared for such a conversation, make sure they know you are still open to talking about it. A simple, “let’s learn about this together” or similar response is enough.
Remember: your child doesn’t need you to be an expert, just a guiding light.
What other ways can a parent find opportunities to talk about addiction? Let us know in the comments!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.