Talk to Your Kids

Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in educating your children about the dangers of drugs and keeping them safe from violence. Talking freely and really listening shows children they mean a great deal to you.

Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.

Talking with kids about drugs

Note: “Drugs” refers to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.

Research shows that the main reason kids don’t use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs is because of their parents -- because of their positive influence and because they know it would disappoint them. That’s why it is so important that parents build a strong relationship with their kids and talk to them about substance abuse -- the earlier the better!

The good news is it’s easy to do!

Don't put off talking to your children about alcohol and other drugs. As early as fourth grade, kids worry about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone aren't enough. Parents must become involved, but most parents aren't sure how to tell their children about drugs.

Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking freely and really listening shows children that they mean a great deal to you.

What do you say?

  • Tell them that you love them and you want them to be healthy and happy.
  • Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal drugs acceptable. Many parents never state this simple principle.
  • Explain how this use hurts people. Physical harm - for example, AIDS, slowed growth, impaired coordination, accidents. Emotional harm - sense of not belonging, isolation, paranoia. Educational harm - difficulties remembering and paying attention.
  • Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver's license, or college loan.
  • Talk about positive, drug-free alternatives, and how you can explore them together. Some ideas include sports, reading, movies, bike rides, hikes, camping, cooking, games, and concerts. Involve your kids' friends.

How do you say it?

  • Calmly and openly - don't exaggerate. The facts speak for themselves.
  • Face to face - exchange information and try to understand each other's point of view. Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns. Don't interrupt and don't preach.
  • Through "teachable moments" - in contrast to a formal lecture, use a variety of situations - television news, TV dramas, books, newspaper.
  • Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.
  • Remember that you set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. And don't use illegal drugs, period!
  • Be creative! You and your child might act out various situation in which one person tries to pressure another to take a drug. Figure out two or three ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best.
  • Exchange ideas with other parents.

How can I tell if a child is using drugs?

Identifying illegal drug use may help prevent further abuse. Possible signs include:

  • Change in moods - more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry, euphoric.
  • Less responsible - late coming home, late for school or class, dishonest.
  • Changing friends or changing lifestyles - new interests, unexplained cash.
  • Physical deterioration - difficulty in concentration, loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance.

Why do kids use drugs?

Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs for one or more of the following reasons:

  • To do what their friends are doing.
  • To escape pain in their lives.
  • To fit in.
  • Boredom.
  • For fun.
  • Curiosity.
  • To take risks.

Take A Stand!

  • Educate yourself about the facts surrounding alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility with your child if your information is not correct.
  • Establish clear family rules against drug use and enforce them consistently.
  • Develop your parenting skills through seminars, networking with other parents, reading, counseling, and support groups.
  • Work with other parents to set community standards - you don't raise a child alone. Volunteer at schools, youth centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, or other activities in your community.

For More Information

  • State and local government drug use prevention, intervention, and treatment agencies.
  • State and local law enforcement agencies.
  • Private drug use treatment service listed in the telephone book Yellow Pages.

Talk to Your Kids About Violence

Violence: no one wants to see children victimized by it. No one wants to see kids hurt others.

Many things today -- TV and movies, words and actions that adults learned when they were children, and the daily news -- send the message that violent behavior or being a victim of violence is okay, even commonplace.

What can parents and other concerned adult do?

Start early. Talk about effective ways to handle frustration, anger, and arguments during a child's youngest years and continue through the teen years. Stress respect for self and others, describe how you have settled arguments and other conflicts without violence, and teach children not to use words that hurt. These valuable skills can last a lifetime.

For very young children, some physical acts such as hitting, kicking and biting may be a part of their development. But by age three, most can understand non-violent ways to deal with anger and frustration, even if they are not perfect at using these skills.

When you talk with children and teens about violence

  • Make clear that you do not approve of violence as a way to solve problems. Explain the difference between feeling angry and frustrated and acting out these feelings violently.
  • Ask about the child's ideas on violence. Listen carefully and encourage him or her to talk about worries, questions and fears.
  • Try not to lecture. Instead, take advantage of "teachable moments." For example, when there's a violent scene on television, talk about what happened and how people could have prevented it. When something violent and freighting happens at school or in the neighborhood, talk about what other choices besides violence might have been available.
  • Make sure other adults in the child's life- a grandparent, a cousin, a neighbor-know and respect your teachings about violence, It confuses children when adults they trust send contradictory messages about the ways people should act.
  • Know who the child's friends are and know how they feel about violence. Always know where your children and their friends are.
  • Set a good example. Don't let yourself resort to violence to settle conflicts or let off steam. Even in tense or very annoying situations, calm down, walk away and talk it out.

Some Basic Tips to Teach Children

Children need to learn to take care of themselves when they are school, with friends, or just out and about. There are many ways young people can reduce their risk of being involved in violence.

Teach them to:

  • Play, walk, bike, or skate with a friends rather than alone, and always let a responsible adult know where they are.
  • Never go anywhere with someone they and you do not know and trust.
  • Not let an argument grow into a fight-cool off, talk it out, even walk away if they have to. Settle the problem with words, not weapons or fists.
  • Never carry a knife, gun or other weapon. It is against the law and a sure way to turn a simple argument into a fight where someone gets badly hurt or killed.
  • Not use alcohol or other drugs. the effects they have on people's minds often encourage violence.
  • Stay away from kids who think fighting and other forms of violence are "cool" and from places where fights often break out.
  • Become a conflict solver for brothers and sisters, friends, and classmates by getting training in mediation skills to help others work out problems without violence.
  • Tell a police officer or other trusted adult if they see a violent crime, and talk about it to you or another caring adult.

Take a Stand

  • Find out about conflict management and mediation training for adults and children. Work with schools and parent organizations to teach these skills in all grades.
  • Help develop recreational and educational programs for all young people in the community, so they will have better things to do than fight and can benefit from adult supervision and mentoring.
  • Make sure your schools are safe places to learn. Many Children feel safer after school than when they are on school property or traveling back and forth to school. Work with educators, local government, law enforcement and others in the community to solve problems involving crime, drugs, harassment, and bullying.
  • Get youth, from grade schoolers to teens, involved in helping the community. Some ideas include cleaning up a playground, starting a garden, tutoring younger children, escorting elderly residents to stores, producing a newsletter. When young people have an important role in building up the community, they are far less likely to turn to violent actions that tear it down.

Take a bite out of crime. Information Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council