Substance use disorders (SUDs) continue to be a serious problem worldwide. Because young people are naturally curious, it is essential to provide them with information about the dangers of substances at an early age. By doing this parents can influence their child to make safe decisions when they do encounter substances at any point in their development.
Sometimes, however, parents lack the confidence to know how much, or even what, information their children should learn. Parents may struggle to find the right balance, trying to convey the right message to their child without turning them off completely. Continue reading to learn some helpful tips about how to teach your children about SUDs.
6 SUD Education Tips
Parents play a pivotal role in guiding their children away from experimenting with substances. Because peers begin to influence decision making well before a child becomes a teenager, parents should plant their seeds of wisdom before their friends begin to influence them. To have the best chance at positively impacting your child’s decision-making, consider these tips:
- Start Early. Don’t wait until your child is in middle school to bring up topics around substance use. Begin introducing the dangers of substances early on, albeit communicating in an age-appropriate manner. As the child gets older, begin to share current events about the serious nature of substance use and SUDs. By starting the dialogue early, you are able to easily build on this foundation as they grow up, providing more useful information over time.
- Stay Involved. Parents should be very involved in their child’s life. This includes knowing which friends they are spending time with, getting to know those kids, and guiding them away from the friends you suspect are at high risk for experimenting with substances. Stay engaged in your child’s life by being present and interested in their school life, friendships, and pastimes.
- Invite Their Input. In order to be effective, substance education must be a two-way street. If you only talk at your child, it will come across as a lecture, and they may tune you out. But, if you make a point to include them in a conversation about substance use by asking for their input or personal experiences, the child or adolescent will be more engaged.
- Leave the Door Open. When you do have conversations with your children about the dangers of substances, always remind them to come to you if they ever have concerns or questions. Position yourself as a safe source of information and support.
- Prepare Them. Parents can help equip their child deal with exposure to substances well ahead of time. Help prepare them by describing situations where substances may be present, such as when experiencing peer pressure, and offer tips for how to react in these scenarios.
- It’s More than “Just Say No.” Parents are so fearful about their child engaging in substance use that they might issue harsh statements and threats without truly teaching them about the actual dangers. Educate your child about the impact of substances on the brain and body. Teach them how addiction develops, and its dangerous effects. Paint the whole picture, as this will be more effective in influencing them than telling them to “Just say no.”
The SUD Impact on Children
Not all children are lucky enough to have a healthy home environment with involved, loving parents. Approximately 25% of children in the U.S. are growing up in households with at least one parent struggling with an SUD. This situation automatically puts the child at risk for neglect, abuse, or even turn to using substances themselves.
Parents who are battling an SUD need help, not only to restore their own health and wellness, but also to prevent peripheral damage to their children. Parents seeking treatment will find an array of options and support available to them. It is never too late to change your life for the better, not only for your sake, but for the sake of your children.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.