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When & How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs & Alcohol

Substance abuse is a subject that keeps every parent up at night at some time or other. It is something that can destroy individual lives as well as the lives of those in close proximity.

It is particularly insidious because substance use – not abuse – is often socially acceptable. Adults drink wine with dinner or have a cocktail in the evening. Recreational marijuana has been legalized in several states as we speak. In fact, in many ways drug and alcohol use is more acceptable today than smoking was just a decade or two ago.

This means that kids are exposed to alcohol and drug use through the media and through observation of their parents and their parents’ friends at an ever-earlier age. For this reason, Research shows it’s a good idea to talk to them at an early age about substance use and abuse – sometimes as early as ages eight or nine.

One good way to broach the subject is to take advantage of a teachable moment when it presents itself. Perhaps your child sees a person who has consumed too much alcohol and is behaving erratically – at a restaurant or football game, perhaps. Take the opportunity to explain that while drinking alcohol is legal and accepted for adults, overconsumption can lead to bad and even dangerous situations. You might also point out that when you’re with your children and you consume a glass of wine, you’re doing so responsibly and that you know when you know you’ve had too much. Taking advantage of these moments is ideal because the child can relate to them as they are witnessing them.

The bottom line is, the earlier you talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the earlier they will be armed against the pressure to use illicit substances as they get older.

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