How do you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol?

My second grader spent a good part of the morning looking for something to wear that was neon colored. Unfortunately, she left for school this morning with boring, non-neon clothes.

Tomorrow, I expect we’ll have a similar problem, as she looks for tie-dyed clothes to wear. Sadly, our house doesn’t have a lot (none) of neon or tie-dye clothes lying around.

This week is Red Ribbon Week at the elementary school. Every day the students are encouraged to dress to match a drug-free theme. The rest of the week’s themes should be easier; Wednesday is crazy hair day, Thursday is pajama day and Friday is school spirit wear.

Besides the fun of dressing up, teaching students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse is very important. It can be especially tricky talking with elementary age children.

After last year’s red ribbon week, my first grader was extremely worried when she saw her older brother take a couple Ibuprofen pills. She looked up at him and asked why he was taking drugs. It was a great question that started a conversation about the numerous good and bad qualities of safe and illegal drugs.

Having conversations with children and teenagers about drugs and alcohol can be difficult. Every family has different views, beliefs and rules surrounding these topics. My husband and I prefer to give our children as much information as possible.

I like to explain how drugs and alcohol affect our bodies and brains (this Infographics video is very interesting about drinking on an empty stomach), what causes addictions, and why people choose to use drugs or alcohol. Simply telling my kids to ‘say no’ is not enough. I want them to know how to make healthy choices. I want them to know they can ask questions. And most of all, I want my kids to be safe.

The CDC reports that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is drunk by people ages 12-20, and 90 percent of underage drinkers are binge drinking. Because I want my kids to be safe, and because I know this statistic, I also tell my children that they can always call me if they have been drinking. I don’t want them drinking, but I really don’t want my children to drive or be in a car with a drunk driver.

On the Red Ribbon website it states: Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

Do you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol? How does your family talk about it?

Melanie Flake

Melanie Flake

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