TALKING TO YOUTH ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE
WHERE SHOULD I START?
Always start with the facts when talking about drug, tobacco, and alcohol use. Make sure they understand how using these substances will impact them. If your child is an athlete, mention that cigarettes will make it harder to breathe while exercising. When you turn a hypothetical situation into a personal one, it is more likely to resonate with you. Use this CDC resource for tips on making this talk as specific to your youth as possible.
Sometimes it can be hard to start a conversation like this. If you are struggling to find the right words that are appropriate for your youths’ ages, we suggest finding drug and alcohol prevention curriculum for your children’s grade. D.A.R.E. is a well-known organization that teaches youth about substance abuse. Their website has lesson plans for every age group on a variety of topics.
WHEN SHOULD I START HAVING THESE CONVERSATIONS?
There is no age rule for talking to youth about the dangers of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. According to Health.gov, most children see adults using tobacco or alcohol by preschool (Talk to Your Kids, 2020). They also found that 9 out of 10 smokers began using cigarettes before they turned 18. It may seem too soon to talk to youth this, but it is important to teach youth how to stay safe at an early age. If your youth are older, you can still talk about making good choices and living a healthy lifestyle.
HOW CAN I BE A GOOD INFLUENCE?
Youth look to the adults in their lives as role models for how they should speak, act, and live their lives. When talking to youth about any hard topic, it is important to be genuine when speaking to them. If you come off as a hypocrite in any way, you will lose your audience’s trust.
Before talking to youth about drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any other topics, take a look at yourself. If you are talking to youth about the dangers of tobacco, then you don’t want to see them you smoking a cigarette. Consider curbing your bad habits before talking to youth. At the very least, making sure that the youth do not see you doing any of these bad habits.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
It is not uncommon for youth to gain access to alcohol, prescription drugs, tobacco products and more from the home. This is why proper security and disposal methods are essential to keeping youth safe. These methods include:
Lock everything up – All alcohol or prescription medications in your home should be put in a cabinet out of reach of the youth. If you have a lockable cabinet, this is the ideal location.
Prescription medication disposal – When you are no longer using a prescription, how you dispose of it is very important. Many people decide to push these medications to the back of their cabinet or toss the bottle in the trash. This opens up an opportunity for curious youth to misuse these drugs. When disposing of medications, we suggest following these instructions from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA also lists a prescription drop-off finder where you can find places to safely dispose of your medications.
Talk to Your Kids about Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs – MyHealthfinder | health.gov. (2020, October 15). Health.Gov. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/talk-your-kids-about-tobacco-alcohol-and-drugs#panel-6