Talk early, talk often to children about drugs


The need to provide meaningful education on the dangers of underage drinking and drug use at Luke Air Force Base has never been greater and parents play a significant role.

As children get older and alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. They can simply sit back and hope their children will “get through it,” or they can take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and help their children do the same.

It can be a daunting task to talk with children about drinking and drug use, but it will be well worth the effort. In fact, research has shown that children who have conversations with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use these substances.

Parents can be a primary source of positive and reliable information, and it is important to be on the lookout and take advantage of teachable moments. It’s not so much about “the big talk,” but about being there for them when the issues come up — on TV, at the movies, on the radio, about celebrities or sports figures, or about their friends. Parents should not miss an opportunity to teach their children or they will likely get their information from the media, the Internet or other sources that not only misrepresent the negative impact of alcohol and drugs but actually glorify their use.

Parents have more influence over their children’s attitudes and decisions about alcohol than most people may think. The key is to start early.

Children go through stages as they grow up. What is appropriate to tell an 18-year-old will vary dramatically from what should be told to a 9-year-old. It’s never too early to begin the conversation. The more informed they are, the better off they’ll be.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, basic guidelines to assist parents include:

Listen before you talk — Encourage conversation: Most parents want to have all the answers, but in the beginning, it’s important to listen to what children are saying. Knowing that the parents are really listening is one of the most important things to them.

Talk to your child — Ask open-ended questions: Parents should talk regularly to their children about their feelings, friends and activities. As much as possible, avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

Be involved: Parents should get to know their child’s friends and continue to educate them about the importance of maintaining good health – psychological, emotional and physical.

Set expectations, limits and consequences: Parents should make it clear they do not want their child drinking or using drugs. Parents should reinforce trust in children not to use drugs or alcohol. Make clear possible consequences, both legal and medical, and be clear about what will happen if the rules are broken.

Be honest and open: Parents should demonstrate care about what their child is going through when they make decisions that could affect their lives in the present and future.

Be positive: Many parents have discovered talking about these issues with their children has built bridges rather than walls between them and have watched those children learn to make healthy, mature decisions on their own.

Family history: Both research and personal experiences have shown that addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that can be linked to family history and genetics. If there is a family history of problems with alcohol or drugs, parents should be matter of fact about it as with any other chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

“Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people,” said Andrew Pucher, NCADD president and chief executive officer. “Parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and using drugs, the less likely they are to develop problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and the Luke Air Force Base Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program is encouraging parents to speak to their children early and often about alcohol and other drugs.