Module 2: Talking About Drugs With Your Children as They Grow

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Introduction

True or False

Talking to Children As They Grow Up

Children Ages 0 to Five

Children Ages Five to Eight

Children Ages Nine to 14

Children Ages 15 to 17

Strategies For Talking About Drugs

Questions to Think About

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Welcome to "Talking About Drugs With Your Children as They Grow," the second interactive module in our "Talk About Drugs” series.

 

This series was developed by Peel Public Health to help you as parents talk to your children about drugs.

 

My name is Clair and I’ll be your guide for this module.  We will look at stages of development, tips for talking to your children at different ages and the importance of having meaningful discussions at any age.

 

As parents, our relationship with our children is one of the main influences on whether or not they will choose to use drugs. But we also know many other people have an influence over our children. These modules are meant for anyone that cares for and nurtures a child, including parents, caregivers, grandparents, older siblings and others.

 

It's time to introduce some of the people who will be sharing their insights and experience related to talking about drugs: Barry, his daughter Kim; Eve and her son Ryan.

 

TRUE OR FALSE

 

Are the statements here true or false?

 

True or False: Drugs aren't really a problem until kids hit their teenage years. This is False. Drugs can become a problem with children long before they are teenagers.  When it comes to talking about drugs, it's never too early or too late.

 

True or False: We should be honest with our children when we don't know the answer to a question they have asked about drugs. This is True. If you don't know the answer to a question they have asked about drugs, be honest about that and tell your children that you’ll find the answer. Honesty with your children builds respect in your relationship.

 

True or False: 46% of grade 12 students report trying marijuana at least once. This is True. 46% of grade 12 students report trying marijuana at least once.

 

TALKING TO CHILDEN AS THEY GROW UP

 

As parents, we have a big influence on whether or not our children use drugs. As our children grow up, we might wish we had discussed certain issues with them when they were younger. The key is to talk early and talk often. Of course, the conversation will change over time because children’s behaviours and their ability to understand changes as they grow.

 

In a perfect world, we could protect our children from drugs and make sure they make wise choices. In reality, finding the time to take care of our day-to-day responsibilities can be challenging - let alone making time for open and honest discussions with our children about drugs.

 

Barry: “For me, I needed to realize that my talks didn't have to be perfect - just as long as they happened on a regular basis. The more we talk, the more Kim trusts me and opens up - and nothing is more important than knowing she can talk to me about anything.”

 

Eve: “My schedule is very busy and between my work and family responsibilities, there are just not enough hours in the day.  So it was always easier to say "I'll have that talk tomorrow.”

 

Barry and Eve have identified some challenges. Here are a few ideas that can help you talk to your children about drugs.

·         Think about what’s keeping you from talking to your child.

·         Talk to a trusted individual about overcoming these challenges.

·         Recognize your talks don’t need to be perfect.

 

As parents, it’s important that we learn how to talk to our children about drugs at every age.

 

CHILDREN AGES 0 TO FIVE

 

Children ages 0 to five need to know that we are there for them; we love them and we want to protect them. They also need good role models, and parents are the ones they look to most often.

 

By the time children reach ages three to five, they are imaginative, curious and seeking a lot of information.

 

Ryan: “My little sister’s into everything, so my mom makes sure that we keep medicine in a safe place. Even all our cleaning and laundry stuff is kept in a locked cupboard.”

 

Store medicine, cleaning products and other potentially dangerous materials out of reach or lock them away. Let your children know that only you or another trusted adult will give them medicine if they need it. They should clearly understand that they never take medicine from anyone else.

 

CHILDREN AGES FIVE TO EIGHT

 

Between the ages of five to eight, friendships start to become more and more important to our children. That makes it important for parents to try to get to know not only our children’s friends, but also their families. What are their values and attitudes related to drug use? Many parents have no idea that drugs pose a threat at this age. And while most parents will share your views and concerns about drugs, some may not.

 

Eve: “I always meet or at least phone the parents before my children go to parties or play dates at a friend's house. A few weeks ago, Ryan came home and said:”

 

Ryan: “Hey mom, you'll never guess what a teacher found in the yard today. A needle! Just like at the doctor’s office. What's it doing there?”

 

Eve: “Doctors and some patients use needles to inject medicine. But some people use them to take illegal drugs.”

 

Ryan: “Why?”

 

Eve: “Because needles make drugs work faster. They use them to feel better, but after a while they can't stop. They need more drugs, just to feel normal. Some even die from taking too much...”

 

Chances are your children won't be exposed to drugs at this young age - but if they are, you need to make sure they have the knowledge and skills required to make smart decisions.

 

CHILDREN AGES NINE TO 14

 

By the time your children reach the ages of nine to 14, they are going through a number of changes. It's not unusual to find your child preoccupied with these changes - and as a result, acting very differently from the child you've come to know. Children at this age:

·         Develop stronger relationships with friends and may lose interest in doing things with their family.

·         Decide for themselves what they think and feel about important issues.

·         Experience changes to their bodies and emotions, with the onset of puberty.

 

It may be hard to adapt to your children’s physical and behavioural changes, but it's very important that you do - because now, more than ever, they need your support. Here are some behaviours that you may notice in your children:

·         A need for independence – they want to do more things on their own, including experimenting with risky behaviours.

·         They may spend much more time with friends and be less interested in spending time with the family.

·         They seek identity and look to establish who they are and how they represent themselves to others.

·         They may feel an increased need for privacy – they want to have their own personal space.

·         You might notice a lack of impulse control – they act on their emotions and feelings without thinking first.

·         They will also seek out facts or truths - and this is the time that they need accurate information the most.

 

Here are some strategies for supporting your children at this age:

 

·         Be firm and consistent in your beliefs; be clear on boundaries, limits and consequences; let your children think for themselves and make their own decisions; discuss the results of their choices; and enforce consequences - even when it's hard to do.

 

We do have more strategies for this age group, but since they’re the same as for ages 15 to 17, we will highlight them there.

 

CHILDREN AGES 15 TO 17

 

Many parents find the ages of 15 to 17 to be especially challenging. Children at this age are often confused about their identity: who they are, what they want and what others expect of them. They might feel bored, angry, stressed, confused, excited and curious – all within a short period of time. And that makes your guidance, understanding and support more important than ever. Children and parents often disagree the most during this period.

 

The influence of friends – plus their changing emotions, need for independence and feelings about their rights can lead to a risk taking behaviour— and cause conflict. Like this:

 

Barry: “I can't believe that you went to a party at someone's house you didn't even know!”

 

Kim: “She's a friend of a friend.”

 

Barry: “That friend is really irresponsible for announcing a party on facebook and inviting underage kids to drink and do drugs in her house. It's no wonder the police were called to break it up!”

 

Kim: “I just went to the party! I didn't do any of that stuff.”

 

Barry: “Ok, I'm relieved to hear that. But you broke our rules. We need to talk about this more...”

 

During this emotional period it’s important to keep talking, even though it might seem like your child isn’t listening. 

 

STRATEGIES FOR TALKING ABOUT DRUGS

 

Let’s review some strategies for talking with your children about drugs as they get older. These strategies are the same for 9 to 14 year olds.

 

·         Know the facts about drugs you plan to discuss before talking with your teen.

·         Make sure you get correct information from a source you can trust.

·         Ask your teen about their concerns regarding drugs and discuss those issues first.

·         Let your teen know that your concern is for their safety.

·         Encourage them to be open and honest with you.

·         Be clear about your expectations when it comes to using alcohol and other drugs.

 

And here are some strategies for how you can support your children:

 

·         Keep connected with the people in your children’s lives – family, friends, school, community and coaches.

·         Be firm, but loving and respectful in the way you parent your children.

·         Look at your own behaviours, habits, and expectations. Your behaviours do affect your children.

·         Let them know that you are always available if they need you.

 

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT

 

1.      Is drinking alcohol a big part of important celebrations in our home?

2.      Is it all right to use marijuana?

3.      Do I allow my children to smoke and drink even though they are underage? 

4.      Do my children see me, and my friends, having a good time only when using alcohol or other drugs?

 

These questions are important because they focus on your children's biggest influencer. It's not their peers, the media or society. It's you. As a parent you need to be a good role model. If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to reflect on the example you are setting. Above all, remember that this is when your children need you to be a parent, not a friend.

 

WRAP-UP

 

Please note: If your child or someone you know displays signs of serious drug use, don’t be afraid to seek help. Consider speaking to your family doctor, or visit talkaboutdrugs.ca for a list of community resources.

 

To learn more visit TalkAboutDrugs.ca.

 

Thanks for joining me.  And remember, talk early and talk often.