A Different Kind of “Talk”
Have you ever had the thought to talk to your child about drugs and alcohol, but quickly pushed it away because you don’t think it’ll pertain to your child? How about thinking they’re too young? Or not wanting to plant that seed of experimentation?
It’s your job, as a parent, to parent your children.
They learn so much from you, don’t they? I know that I learned so much from my parents. I’m trying to remember when my family had a drug or alcohol conversation with me and even after asking them, I’m really not sure we had one.
From my experience dealing with parents, I would say most decide to begin that conversation about twelve or thirteen years old and that would seem reasonable to a normal person.
However, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, 37% of all children in the United States have already tried alcohol by age 8. By age 12, that number jumps to 66%.
So, what concerns me, is if we’re waiting until the teenage years to have this conversation, the statistics are showing us that we are too late.
If we picture the age group of 8-11, we could catch them at a great time where they have already experienced a relationship with alcohol or drugs. Now, this relationship could solely be based off of seeing you (as a parent) having a glass of wine or beer with dinner, seeing family at parties or maybe even seeing drinking at a professional sporting game.
The child might not fully understand that alcohol causes the effects of what they’re seeing, but having that conversation about what they’re seeing is important.
Know When, Know How is a researched-based campaign targeting Pennsylvania parents to prevent underage drinking by providing information and tools for parents. I utilize these teachable moments, in addition to a few others I’ll share later on. If you’re struggling to come up with any teachable moments on your own, I’ve got a few styles for you.
Earlier, when I wrote about your children seeing things that you do as a parent regarding alcohol or any of the other examples, did you think they’d become a great teachable moment? If you’re watching a television show, a movie, or even a music video and drugs or alcohol come across the screen or are mentioned—talk about it!
What about a famous person in the media getting arrested or getting sick? What if you have someone who suffers from alcoholism in your family? Talk about it! I remember my mom sitting my sister and I down to watch Pretty Woman on a snow day, I couldn’t have been older than 12. The entire time my mom was squirming in her seat thinking we’d ask her a bunch of questions. Luckily for her, most of it went over our heads and it would turn out to be a great conversation starter for us to talk about the world of sex just a few years later. Molly Ringwald recently wrote an op-ed piece about having difficult conversations with her daughter, which provides some good insights from a parent’s perspective.
Alcohol greatly affects the Frontal Lobe, which is the decision-making, judgement, and impulse control portion of your brain. So, it’s important for the child to understand the permanent damage that can be done if drinking prior to their brains being fully developed.
My advice to parents would be to start that conversation early, continue it often, and to secure their alcohol in their home.
Did you know that 7 in 10 PA parents don’t secure the alcohol in their home? If this seems like an outlandish idea for you, 85% of underage drinkers get their alcohol from their home or a friend’s home. Locking your alcohol is a great conversation starter too! You can talk about how dangerous alcohol is, that drinking too much is a poison (remember Mr. Yuck?) and that you are locking it for their protection.
Will this conversation be sunshine and roses? Maybe not, but just because it’s going to be a difficult conversation to have, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it!
You can also visit Partnership for Drug Free Kids for great resources and information.
Did you receive talks on drugs and alcohol from your parents growing up? How have you shared these conversations with your kids? Let’s start a conversation about open dialogue together!