Discussing Drugs With Your Children

What to Communicate

  • Discuss how drugs harm people — young people especially. Point out the harm of drugs physically (slowed growth, impaired coordination, etc.), socially (being disconnected from society, loss of friendships, loss of interest) and educationally (impaired memory and attention levels and reduced motivation).
  • State that you don’t find drug use acceptable. Many children say their parents never stated this simple principle. Don’t forget to point out that these drugs are against the law.
  • Point out that there are may positive, drug-free alternatives that you’ll help your children explore.
  • Emphasize that you place a high value on your children’s good, special qualities — qualities that drugs can and will destroy or diminish.
  • Encourage your children’s power to say no. Provide a clear message about the behavior you expect, that you trust in your children to live up to your hopes and that you believe your children, knowing right from wrong, are smart enough to say no to drugs.

How to Communicate

  • Be calm and open. Discuss drug facts frankly and without anger. Don’t exaggerate. The facts are chilling in and of themselves.
  • Communicate in terms of subject matter, not personalities. Challenging the choice of current friends might lead to defensive or defiant behavior.
  • Be an active listener. Let your children tell you what they know about drugs, what their own experiences have been and what fears or concerns already exist.
  • Use “teachable moments.” In contrast to a formal sit-down lecture, use a variety of situations — television news, TV dramas, books, newspapers and local situations. Capitalize on one point, as you’ll have opportunities to make other points. Ask your children how they would have reacted and what else might have been done or might have happened.
  • Keep the dialogue ongoing. Communication won’t be as effective if the subject is brought up in one massive lecture. Anti-drug use messages should be an ongoing theme with your children. The content and intent should be repeated as an accepted family value, but be sure you encourage and allow for two-way communication.
  • Remember that you set the example. Your children will compare your actions with your words and be guided accordingly. If you choose to drink, never mix drinking with driving or any other activity requiring skill and coordination. If you smoke, it would help you and your children if you could quit. And, don’t use illegal drugs, period!

Why Children Use Drugs

Children may turn to drugs for one or more of these reasons:

  • For fun
  • To fit in
  • To take risks
  • Out of boredom
  • Because of curiosity
  • To get through the day
  • To escape pain in their lives
  • To do what friends are doing
  • Because a role model did it

Signs of Drug Use

  • Mood changes (more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry)
  • Irresponsibility (late coming home, late for school or class, involved in more accidents than usual, dishonest)
  • Different friends or lifestyle changes (new interests, unexplained increases in cash)
  • Difficulty in/lack of communication (refuses to discuss changes in behavior, becomes defensive if asked about drug use)
  • Physical deterioration (memory loss, concentration difficulties, weight loss, unhealthy appearance)