Do I connect with my children at mealtime? While walking or driving to school or activities? At other times?
Do I invite my children to spend time with me while doing household chores and cooking? Shopping? Walking the dog? At other times?
Do I spend time individually with each of my children?
Do I take advantage of opportunities to kick-start a discussion about values and important life choices; for example, when a current news story is raising such issues?
Listening in a way that really “hears” what your children are saying and talking to them about your views and experience are two of the best things you can do to help your children develop self-esteem and have positive values. Your children will respond to your efforts to connect with them if you keep at it and show that it really matters to you. So do it often, openly and throughout their growing-up years.
Create an environment for communicating easily with your children by:
Stay tuned into your child’s growth and development. Most new parents read books about stages of development when their children are young. Remember, though, that there are also many changes as your child enters and moves through their teens.
In talking to your children about drugs, it is important to acknowledge that people who use drugs do so for a reason. Drugs usually serve a purpose or meet a need for people, at least initially. Prescribed drugs are used to prevent disease, fight disease or help the body function. People may also take drugs, however, to change the way they feel; for example, to get high or to help them forget problems or to relax. If used repeatedly in this way, drugs often end up increasing a person’s problems rather than reducing them. Many drugs are addictive, and street drugs present additional risks since there are no controls on the quality, content, safety or strength of street drugs.
When discussing drugs with your children, try to be clear and concise while explaining the facts and discussing the pros and cons of use. You don’t need to protect them from the facts but neither do you want to go out of your way to scare them. For example, caution should be taken when discussing the addictive potential of any drug with your child. There are many factors that lead to the development of an addiction, such as amount, frequency and method of use, predisposition to addictive behaviour, and other risk and protective factors. Absolute statements such as “You will be addicted after a single use” are difficult to prove, and may ultimately hurt your credibility when it comes to sharing important information about the harmful effects of drugs.
Let your children know that you are open to conversations with them and want to hear their thoughts. You can do this in a casual or a more planned way (for example, at a family meeting). To open up the discussion, it is helpful to:
Use open-ended questions such as, “Why do you think drugs are becoming a problem at your school?” Don’t ask, “Have any of your friends asked you to try a drug?”
If you have used illegal drugs in the past, and your kids ask, will you want to tell them? (Consider that if you decide to tell them, your experience might help you to be specific and believable about drug use. You may also want to remind your kids that some things about drugs have changed. Marihuana and hash, for example, are many times stronger today than they were 20 years ago.)
What do you say to your children if you are a smoker or heavy drinker and they ask why you haven’t quit?
Be prepared to respond to your children’s questions and challenges. There are many approaches you can take, including asking friends and other family members for help.
Some keys to success include:
Admit it when you don’t know something. But when such a situation arises, try to get up to speed quickly or to find someone else in the family or community who can help answer your child’s questions.
Another alternative might be to research the question with your child. It’s something you can do together!