Dos and Don’ts of Speaking to Your Kids About Drugs and Addiction

By on August 9, 2021

Every year, millions of Americans struggle with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Many individuals with addiction problems hide their issues amazingly well. You’d never know that the lady across the street is trying to cut back on her drinking or that the person who works two cubicles down from you is having a hard time with pain pills.

Sometimes, the person struggling with addiction is even living in your own house. Sometimes, it’s your child.

Speaking to children about addiction is a responsibility that every parent has. Whether you suspect that your child is interested in drugs or you know that they use them periodically or regularly, it’s important that you be upfront with your family about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

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If you would like to broach this subject with your child, but you don’t know where to begin, here are some do’s and don’ts for starting that conversation.

Do take a stance.

Many parents think it’s too “uncool” to say outright that they disapprove of drug use and alcohol use in young adults. In fact, this is your role as a parent. You are older and wiser than your child, and you do know more about the terrible effects that drugs and alcohol abuse can have on people.

Withholding this information from your child is not a good parenting tactic. It’s actually irresponsible. Take a strong stance that you are against drugs and that you need them to feel the same way that you do about these illicit substances.

Don’t hold back the truth.

Likewise, don’t be afraid to go into detail about what can happen to a person who is taken over by drugs or alcohol abuse. Most of us know at least one person in our lives who has succumbed to this terrible illness. Share these stories with your child. It can be hard to do, but we all know that these cautionary tales are true, and they are useful at illustrating the importance of staying drug-free.

Do create consequences for your children’s actions.

If you learn that your child has been using drugs or abusing alcohol underage, don’t hesitate to take action. As long as they live with you and are under the age of 18, you are in charge of them. It is your responsibility to enact consequences for their actions, and this includes creating built-in ramifications if they stray and start using drugs or abusing alcohol.

As best as you can, do this with love and a caring disposition. Explain why you are creating consequences for their actions, and also explain that it’s out of your love for them that you do so. You want them to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life, and drugs cannot be part of that.

Don’t avoid getting professional help when you need it.

If it becomes apparent that your child is already in the throes of full-blown addiction, it’s time to seek professional help.

Start at a local rehab center or even by getting advice from your general practitioner. Getting your child into an approved and accredited program — whether inpatient or outpatient — does not mean you’ve failed as a parent. It means you’re taking responsibility and stepping up to the plate to help your child at a time when they need you most.

Remember that sometimes, the help you need is for you as well.

Parents who struggle to make ends meet or have too much on their plate, in general, tend to unravel when drugs or alcohol enter the equation for their kids. If you are feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities and challenges, do what you need to do to get help — whether this means cutting back on work, taking time away from other responsibilities, or even getting government assistance. Programs for free breakfast for kids, housing assistance, and food stipends are available. Take advantage of them whenever possible.

Don’t withhold your love.

Learning that your child has taken drugs, abused alcohol, or is interested in either one of these substances can be shocking and frightening. Sometimes, our first reaction is to show disdain and possibly even withhold the normally loving relationship we have with our kids.

This isn’t the answer.

While it’s certainly okay to show disapproval for the use of drugs and alcohol, this shouldn’t mean that you withhold love from your children. It’s always possible to continue being the strong and loving parent your child has always known while also showing that you want what’s best for them — and what’s best for them does not include drugs or alcohol.

Use these tips to help alleviate the worry and anxiety of starting up a conversation around addiction with your child. This is a conversation that every parent should feel confident in having, even when it’s scary.

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Dos and Don’ts of Speaking to Your Kids About Drugs and Addiction