It is imperative that all parents talk to their kids about substance use, abuse, and addiction, but as someone in recovery, it’s especially important that you do so. There is good news from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA_; their 2017 Monitoring the Future survey showed that teenage substance use and abuse is in a decline across the board compared to years and decades past, including their use of nicotine, opioids, marijuana, and alcohol. However, with that said, studies show that children of addicted individuals are more likely than other children to develop an addiction of their own. Further, another study by NIDA, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, indicates that some children are already abusing drugs at age 12 or 13, “which likely means that some begin even earlier.” It’s a crazy world out there; kids grow up fast. It’s vital that you speak to them about drugs and alcohol – immediately, directly, and often.
On one hand, it may be easier for adults in recovery to speak to their children about drugs and alcohol – after all, you’re speaking from direct, personal experience. On the other hand though, the idea of talking to your son or daughter about the dangers of using drugs or drinking may feel daunting or even terrifying. What questions will they ask? How can you answer them? How much detail should you give them? Might they think less of you, knowing all you have been through?
Truly, there is nothing to fear, and the initial conversation – as well as many, many follow up conversations you will have in the future – will likely go better than you might imagine. You’re your child’s parent, after all; even if they were unfortunately present for and cognizant of your active addiction while it was happening, they love you, and they look up to you. Since this is a conversation that absolutely has to happen for both your peace of mind and for their future safety, plan it out, go in prepared, and know deep down that it will all go well. Here are some tips to help you get ready, do the deed, and continue moving forward with your parent-child relationship in a very healthy way.
Before You Begin
First of all, you need to recognize that talking to your child about drugs and alcohol is part of your job as a parent. Although this is something that is difficult to discuss, the fact of the matter is, no one is going to do it for you. Sure, your son or daughter will get some information about drugs and alcohol and some prevention messages at school and eventually in their health classes, but those delivery methods are very impersonal and all of it will mean so much more coming from you. Whether you got “the talk” as a child or teen yourself or not, there is no avoiding the fact that now you must give it as the adult and role model in charge.
Secondly, you must know that it is never too early to talk to your child about drugs and alcohol. Many children know more at an earlier age than we could ever imagine, and it’s important to make sure they have their fact straight. Chances are, they don’t; they have likely heard a lot of information from a lot of different sources, and it’s impossible for them to know what is truth and what is fiction. It’s up to you to make sure their questions are answered and that they have a good understanding of the problems that use and misuse of various substances can cause.
Finally, as mentioned earlier in this post, it’s important to have a plan when approaching the subject of drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, and addiction, but it’s also important to keep the tone pretty casual. No child likes to be lectured – least of all, when he or she hasn’t done anything wrong. Take your son or daughter out for pizza or for a hike in the woods, and bring it up when it feels natural. It’s possibly that your child will offer some resistance to the subject at first; you may have to choose a later time to try again. Don’t give up, though. With some persistence, you will be able to get your points across and show your child that you are there and ready for them to come to you if they have any questions, when they are faced with uncomfortable situations, or even if develop any concerns about their friends.
Time to Talk
When the time has come to have the actual initial discussion with your child, here are some tips to help guide you and to aid in keeping the conversation productive, positive, and on track.
- Ask what they already know. As mentioned above, kids often know a lot more than we know they do. Ask them what they know about drugs and alcohol, and if applicable, what they know about your addiction and recovery, too.
- Keep it simple. It’s very easy to overload children with too much information, so keep your discussion simple and to the point. Give your child ample time to talk and ask questions, too. Power Point presentations are definitely not necessary.
- Be honest. Give your child honest answers to his or her questions, whether they are about specific drug and alcohol facts, or about your own personal struggles. Honesty always goes a long way, especially with children.
- Try to do more listening than talking. This can be challenging, but if you give your son or daughter enough time to ask questions, talk through your responses, and share their own personal experiences, it will give them more ownership over the conversation, and it will mean more to him or her and will stay with him or her longer.
- Communicate the risks. Be very clear about your fears and the possible risks of drug or alcohol use at a young age and altogether. Be careful not to sound like you are simply fear mongering. There are many scientifically proven facts to back up your statements that are easily provable online; find them and use them when necessary.
- Warn about peer pressure. Surely, your son or daughter has learned about peer pressure in school, so it will not be a new concept to your child. Explain the ways negative peer pressure can lead someone down an unsafe path, and discuss strategies to work around it.
- Set clear expectations. Having boundaries for your son or daughter may seem like a real drag, but it can be very helpful. Set curfews. Know who your child’s friends are. Make him or her call you if changing hang out locations. Call a friend’s parent to make sure someone is available to supervise during visits.
- Focus on the positive. Try not to be overly negative. Focus on your child’s positive qualities and the importance and strength of your parent-child relationship. Remind your child that you are always there for him or her, no matter what, and that your love is unconditional. Recounting these statements often will remind your son or daughter that the lines of communication are always open, and you only want what is best for him or her now and in the future, too.
Remember, this first discussion is just the beginning. As time moves forward, continue to check in often with your son or daughter and continue to educate him or her on the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Keep the lines of communication open, and let your child know that you are always there for him or her to answer any questions that may arise. Continue to build a strong relationship with your child and be on the look out for any signs; as a former user yourself, you may find that you are very adept at noticing them. However, it’s also important that you don’t worry yourself too much. Be confident about the work you have done to raise your offspring and know you have done a good job. Also, no one is destined for addiction – not even a child of an addict. Armed with the right information and a loving parent (or parents) standing behind them, your children can succeed in any area they choose, and can break the cycle of addiction for your family.
At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help you break free from your own addiction to help you set a good example for your children. At our facility in Cancun, Mexico, we offer weeklong ibogaine detox experiences to help people begin on their road to recovery. Our staff has decades of experience in helping people move towards the people they truly are and want to be. Please contact us today. Our intake specialists are standing by to help answer your questions, and to help get you started on a new and healthier lifestyle. We look forward to hearing from you!
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.