We expect our children to grow and change and develop over the years, but not many parents expect that they are going to have to do the same. The way we communicate with our children needs to evolve also.
It can be difficult to start this conversation but we strongly encourage all parents to be persistent, as it will be worth it, especially when it comes to moody teenagers dealing with a wide range of emotions and situations.
Introduce the Conversation
But when should you begin? Well, that’s entirely up to the parents but there is certainly a lot to be said for starting earlier when your child is between 8 and 12 years old. Kids around this age are often still willing and open to talk about touchy topics.
Starting a conversation now can help lay the groundwork for the older kids who are less likely to share their feelings with their parents.
Perhaps your questions won’t reveal much information but at least it will get your kids to start thinking about the subject and that it is a concern for you. This introduces the concept of responsibility and accountability.
One excellent technique is to softly introduce the conversation by talking about the use of steroids or drugs in sports or the Olympics. Discuss how top-level athletes monitor everything that goes into their bodies including food, alcohol, and drugs.
This is a great way to inform them about the risks of taking any substances.
Having an Adult Conversation
The common wisdom suggests that it’s important for parents to continuously check in with their children on this subject between the ages of 13 to 17 years old.
Although many teenagers will be willing to talk to their parents about it, others will be less likely to volunteer information unless asked. Teenagers often don’t feel comfortable with those “parental talks” and can shy away from sharing or clam up completely.
To help parents foster an open and trusting conversation about drugs and alcohol with their kids, the following are some suggestions that we have honed from those parents who have dealt with both extremes of parenting: from the rebel teenager to the young responsible bookworm.
- Keep an open mind. You might hear things in a conversation that you don’t want to hear. It’s very important to just listen and get as much information as possible from your child. Resist your parental instinct to share your wisdom before they have a chance to speak. For kids, knowing that they are really being listened to is the most important bridge to the conversation.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Be gentle and compassionate and as warm as possible because you don’t want them to think they are a disappointment or feel shame which could have a negative effect on the conversation or relationship.
- Be clear about your goals. Talk about expectations and consequences. Make it clear what your rules for alcohol and drugs are. Talk about the possible consequences of alcohol and drug use, both medical and legal.
- Stay positive. Building that bridging conversation about drugs and alcohol with your kids can help develop other important conversations with them. Saying thank you for talking to them is also a good gesture. This helps to build trust and confidence.
- Avoid lecturing. Teenagers will often shut down if they feel that are being talked at and not talked to. When your child starts arguing with you and pushing back it’s a sure sign that the communication isn’t balanced sufficiently for the child. Give them age-appropriate choices so that they feel like they have a say in things. Parents have to be willing to let their child negotiate. This comes from a desire to be heard and understood.
- Be natural. Find a comfortable and relaxed setting. A more spontaneous space, perhaps on a walk or outdoor activity, can facilitate openness and bonding. Try to be aware of your body language. Try not to cross your arms or look stressed, angry or even aggressive.
- Be prepared. It might also be important to tell them about some significant family history. Research shows that addiction to alcohol or drugs is a progressive disease and can be connected to family history. This can be compared to any other genetic disease such as cancer or diabetes.
It’s all about practising good communication with the emphasis on practising.
The good news is that children who engage in this conversation are much less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who have not. Humans have a natural and innate need to bond and have a community.
So community and open communication are the protectors against isolation, loneliness and need to abuse alcohol or drugs as a solution to life’s problems.
Camino Recovery is a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre located on the Andalusian Coast in Spain.
Please contact us for more information or if you need a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.
Email: [email protected] or call us in Spain +34 951 107 195 or UK +44 (0)7492 426615
Sometimes the hardest step is reaching out for help but it’s also the most important.