The “Drug Talk” Started Early With My Kids

mother and child

Parents often ask me how they can tell if their teen is just acting like a teen — or when he or she is exhibiting a red-flag behavior. For instance, let’s say your son is suddenly hostile, has new friends you don’t care for and has missed curfew a few times. Does that mean he is using drugs?

Some of this behavior could be normal — as a result of his developing teen brain. Research reveals that brain development during these formative years play a significant role in shaping your teen’s personality and actions. But if you do notice sudden changes or new patterns in your child’s behavior, and he or she is showing several of these warning signs all at once, then it could indicate a problem. Trust your gut here and be sure to talk to your child if you suspect something’s going on.

My kids are still young, but I’m surprised how substance use is already on their radar.

Recently, my 6-year-old son and I waited as an older gentleman was brought onto the bus in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. He looked at my son and said, “Never smoke cigarettes.” I explained to Cameron how the man now understands that cigarettes hurt his body. We talked about how he is not able to run or play football or do any of the things that my son enjoys. Now, every time we see someone on the street smoking, he mentions him.

In terms of alcohol, Cameron often sees beer commercials when watching football. In fact, it’s how he now knows there’s a silent G and silent H in the word “light.” He even directs us to certain brands when we are grocery shopping, adding, “That’s for grown-ups.”

It’s really never too early to establish good communication skills with your children. By talking to them about respecting their bodies, the joys of healthy living and making smart decisions, you’re giving your child the skills to resist drugs and alcohol when he or she is older. You may find young kids asking basic questions like “What is pot?” or “What do drugs do to someone’s body?” It’s good that they know they can come to you for answers.

While addiction hasn’t touched my family directly, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected me, or hasn’t affected you. Your niece could be in a car with someone high on prescription medicine. Your co-worker may be panicked because her daughter was rushed to the emergency room last night. Your son’s best friend may be caught up in a drug problem without the support to get help.

The resources we provide here at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids — like our personalized Helpline, Ask a Coach feature or downloadable eBooks—are absolutely free of charge, all diligently reviewed by scientists, parents and health care professionals who work on the front lines of our issue.

I love my job. And I know that what I’m doing will help Cameron and Charlotte so that they can make smart and healthy decisions in the future, and help me if I need support or guidance as their mom along the way.

Denise Young-Farrell
VP, Director of Public Affairs

Mother of Cameron, 6, and Charlotte, 4

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