403.281.2524 admin@parentingpower.ca
News See our News
8MayNo Comments
Teaching kids about drugs and alcohol
Parenting Power Admin May 8, 2012 No Comments

Teaching kids about drugs and alcohol

The following is a transcript of a Drugs/Alcohol Q and A session that we held on Facebook on May 7, 2012. Due to a change in format (Facebook to Word Document), discussion threads may seem disjointed. We hope that you benefit from the overall content of this document.

iStock_000004899628XSmall

If you have any questions, please contact Julie Freedman Smith at 403.281.2524 or julie@parentingpower.ca

PARENTING POWER (PP) Welcome to our Q and A session on Kids and Drugs/Alcohol! It’s Julie Freedman Smith from Parenting Power here with you tonight. We are excited to have Stacey McRae-Arbuthnott with us. Stacey is an Addiction Prevention Counsellor with Youth Addiction Services Calgary (formerly AADAC).

Stacey and I will answer your questions for the next hour or so. Please invite others to join us and send any information you find valuable out into the Facebook world for your friends and family.

Stacey, why don’t we get started with the question that Sherri Henderson posted below? Sherri wanted to know – at what age should you start talking to your kids about alcohol and drugs? How should you approach the conversation?

STACEY MCRAE-ARBUTHNOTT (SMA): Kids are smart! Even at young age’s kids see people smoking; drinking on TV or hear about it in the media; or see mom or dad having wine or taking medication, and ask what they are doing and why. Parents can use these questions as openings to start talking about substances, how they can help or hurt us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. At an early age, discussions might center around medicine safety (rather than pot).

Check out the following information for activities that can be done with your kids. http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/2434.aspwww.albertahealthservices.ca/2434.asp

PP: Stacey’s link to information about teaching kids about drugs is a huge resource that Parenting Power uses frequently. This particular link is great for talking to kids about drugs long before they might be encountering them in a party situation. It gives some great activities and also some helpful language around parenting and drugs (the whole series does this really well). http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/AddictionsSubstanceAbuse/if-par-parent-info-series-2-2.pdf

PP: When we talk with kids about the “tough stuff” – or as we like to say “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll,” it is never just one conversation. We use the teachable moments that life presents us – maybe it is about taking cough syrup or in response to a TV show or a piece of music – those are the way in to some conversations about drugs, etc.
SMA: Music is also a great way to start the conversation. Music that has a great beat, that little girls and boys are dancing to, don’t always have positive messaging. Talk about those messages and what they mean to our families and our identities. Parenting Power One of the great things about the internet is that you (or your kids) can look up the lyrics to any song now – we have a lot of conversations in the car and around the table about what a song means and how it fits with real life and our family values.

PP: That is where it can start at a very young age – along with only putting healthy foods in your mouth versus other substances. Stacey, what about when our kids are older (late elementary/Jr High) and are heading out to a party? How might you suggest we raise the matter of drugs/alcohol being at a party?

SMA: Parents don’t want to come off as the over protective helicopter parent. Safety is the key. Talk about trusting your youth and being excited about the new experiences life offers them as they become independent. With independence comes risk and we need to talk about the potential risks you may encounter. If you haven’t already, this is where you set clear boundaries about your family values about drugs and alcohol. Ask your youth what their thoughts are and how they plan on handling difficult situations. If your youth is going to a party and plans on drinking, create a safety plan so they have a safe way out.

PP: Stacey’s link to information about teaching kids about drugs is a huge resource that Parenting Power uses frequently. This particular link is great for talking to kids about drugs long before they might be encountering them in a party situation. It gives some great activities and also some helpful language around parenting and drugs (the whole series does this really well). http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/AddictionsSubstanceAbuse/if-par-parent-info-series-2-2.pdf

PP: Stacey, there have been rumours about candy-like drugs circulating around playgrounds at schools. What can we tell our kids to let them know that this is a possibility and prevent their taking them?

SMA:  Key messaging is, if you don’t know what it is, don’t take it! Drugs aren’t typically given to kids by strangers. Knowing that drugs are offered or given to youth by people they know and have a relationship with, as parents we need to focus on education. Young children: I would focus on seeing the candy come from a familiar package, not picking up anything on the playground that looks like candy. Focusing on medicine safety as well. Here is a link www.albertahealthservices.com/2677.asp with lessons that can be done at home.

PP:  You have hit the nail on the head – our gut reaction is to protect our kids from strangers when it comes to sexual abuse or drugs. That is not the case – it is rarely the stranger. We need to be giving kids language to no to their friends/people they know when they are not comfortable. That really comes into parenting in general – we need to be teaching kids to make their own decisions, even when they are with us (of course with consequences for those decisions). If we do all of the thinking for them, they won’t know how to make good decisions when they are out in the world on their own.

PP: We need to remember that what we say to our kids is not nearly as important as what we do – our kids are watching our body language and our daily actions. If you are talking to your kids about caring for their bodies by putting healthy things in and then you are smoking or “Can’t get by without your 5 cups of coffee a day”, your actions are speaking much more clearly than your words.

PP: This link will take you to information about protecting your teen when they want to head out to a club or rave. It informs you (and them) about what could be there, risks and strategies. Also there are some activities listed at the end that give you a starting point for thinking about talking to your teen. http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/AddictionsSubstanceAbuse/if-par-parent-info-series-3-6.pdf

PP: Some parents believe that teens will be teens – they are going to drink and do drugs; it’s just what they do. Stacey, please share your expertise on this with respect to the law and statistics on kids’ drug and alcohol addiction.

SMA:  If a parent can delay experimentation for even a year, the youth has a better chance of not developing a problem. The brain has been given another year of skill building, stress management, social skills, emotional regulation,problem solving, self confidence, education etc. that will give them the protection they need to make healthy choices for themselves, not for their friends.

SMA: In regards to youth that are already using, teach them how to use responsibly. What is a standard drink (one beer, 5 oz of wine, 1.5 oz shot); how to make a standard drin;, what are signs of intoxication; how to keep yourself safe at a party; what is the recovery position for someone that has passed out; and most importantly, what are the signs of overdose and what do you do.

Coral Cohen posted : How do we talk about drugs without making them seem enticing?
SMA: Hi Coral, that’s a great question. It is so hard for children and youth now a
days not to see the glorified reasons to use drugs and alcohol. For this reason, I encourage parents to start talking to
their children now. Focus on the realities of drug use. Experimentation happens for
many reasons (curiosity, boredom, excitement, trauma, stress), but it isn’t a quick fix.
Talk about the effects it has on major life areas (family, friends, school, extra curricular,
faith/spirituality, job, financial and legal). For some youth, these reasons may be pros
for use, but it never stays a pro. Explore the breakdown in someone’s life when using
drugs and the effects it has on their brain during adolescent development. Give actual
trusting facts and DO NOT exaggerate the fears. Here are some websites you can access
to get accurate information. Look at them first to be sure that they are age-appropriate.
If they are, educate as a family.
http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/addiction.asp
http://www.talktofrank.com/
http://www.drugabuse.gov/parents-teachers (American)
http://theantidrug.com/ (American)
http://www.ccsa.ca/Eng/Priorities/YouthPrevention/Pages/default.aspx (Th…See More

PP:  Stacey, these websites are really helpful, as is your post. I know that
you once talked to me about the ripple effects of drug use – the child might think that
drug use is no one else’s business but really, it affects the people around the user, the
parents, people on the road if this person is driving – etc. Our actions have
consequences.

You may also like: