These kinds of conversations are never easy.Likely, neither you nor your child wants to talk about drugs, so it can be hard to know when and how to bring it up. However uncomfortable, it is important you think about the conversation and how you want it to progress before your child is faced with a tough situation. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.
Start early. Although conversations should always be age-appropriate, it is important to get a head start and make sure your kids know they can talk to you about anything. With younger children, start with topics such as trusting their gut and going to a trusted adult if they are confused or uncomfortable with something. Aim to build an open relationship so as they get older and topics such as marijuana or other drugs come up, they feel comfortable coming to you with questions.
Avoid long lectures. Instead, have shorter, informal conversations where your children get to ask questions. It is likely your child will face these situations more than once, and what they need is an ongoing conversation where they can get credible information from someone who cares about them.
Kids already know. Kids hear about drugs from their peers, the media and popular culture, so chances are they already have some information on the topic. It’s important to recognize that your child is hearing about drugs outside of the home, and it’s imperative you get in on the discussion.
Kids have heard the ‘don’t do drugs’ message over and over. Instead of reiterating this, use this opportunity to give them more information and answer their questions like why certain drugs are worse, why some people might turn to drugs and how they can say no. If your child is unsure about how to say no, you can help them create some responses they can use if they are ever put in that situation.
Do your homework. You need to make sure the information you have is up-to-date and accurate. Not all drugs are the same, and your kids probably already know this. Do some simple research so you know the difference between drugs like marijuana and fentanyl and can talk about the dangers of each.
Being able to answer your children’s questions makes you a more credible source of information for your kids to come back to. This also helps you to correct any misinformation they may have about drugs.
Listen. Always remember to listen and stay calm if your child has questions about drugs. This can be especially hard if a question seems to come out of the blue for you, but remember that your reaction to each question could influence whether or not they ask you again. It is perfectly normal for kids to be curious about things they have heard about or even things their peers are doing - wondering about drugs does not make them bad kids.
Before answering any questions, let your kids say all they want to say so you can try to find out what they already know and think about drugs. If you aren’t able to answer a question, use the opportunity to research the answer with your child.
Know your child. There is a difference in how you approach conversations with a kid who is curious about drugs and one that is currently using drugs. If your child is using drugs, it is still important to have an open conversation where you can try to determine why they started, but you also need to make sure they get the help they need.
There are multiple resources for parents and kids who are dealing with drug use - each public and Catholic school has a CPS School Resources Officer who can help. You can also call the Alberta Health Services addictions helpline at 1-866-332-2322.
Roger Chaffin is the Chief of Police for the Calgary Police Service.
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