The main reason parents avoid these conversations is that they find them uncomfortable or aren’t sure how to address the topic. Here are some tips that will make things easier:
Use television as a teaching tool
Use TV as a conversation starter. Parents often complain about TV programming when it comes to content they don’t like, but the reality is that all of these things you don’t like also provide some of the best teachable moments, so long as you take advantage of them. Whenever a TV program or movie depicts drug or alcohol use, that is a golden opportunity for you to educate your kids.
- Ask the kids what they think the people on screen are using, which can open up a conversation on the different type of drugs.
- Why do you think producers wrote that into the movie?
- Watch the news with your kids, and talk about all the stories that are a consequence of drug use, whether explicit or merely suspected.
Drug use is often portrayed in unrealistic ways. Be sure to challenge these assumptions when you see them:
- He’s going to have a really hard time functioning now that he’s high.
- Talk about the circumstances surrounding the depicted drug use: Is that going to make his problems go away? Do they need to be drinking at every party?
Everyday opportunities to bring the topic up The best way to maintain an ongoing drug dialogue without sounding obsessive is to find ways to bring the discussion up in everyday life:
- Point out erratic drivers and talk about how they’re driving like they’re drunk. This can then lead into a conversation about how alcohol and drugs impair driving or the effects they have on people’s judgment.
- If you encounter an alcohol ad in a magazine, point it out and use it as a discussion tool.
- When at the doctor’s office or filling a prescription, talk about how all drugs, even prescription ones, have consequences, and how they lose their effectiveness over time if you use them too often.
Use news and articles as teaching tools
Bring up articles you read or stuff you heard on TV, and ask for your kids’ input on it in a non-judgmental tone, as if you were curious and/or asking for their opinion. For example: “I heard on the news that 19% of teens are vaping. Do you think that’s accurate? Why do you think they do it?” Or “I read an article on the opioid crisis, and it got me wondering: Do you think there are any kids in your school who are addicted? If so, how many? Who are they? How might they have gotten started?” You’d be amazed at jus thaw many topics you can cover simply by approaching them in this manner. Best of all, if you come at them in an inquisitive way like this, treating them as a competent “expert” when it comes to youth culture, they’ll actually want to share with you.
Refer to their music as a conversation starter
Use the music they listen to as a conversation too. Popular music commonly has references to drug and alcohol use. You don’t need to get all crazy and try to ban her favorite songs or act as censor, but you should pay attention and use it to start a discussion: “I was listening to (name song), and I couldn’t help, but notice that…”