What is the leading drug used by our youth today? If you’re thinking marijuana or heroin, guess again. The answer is alcohol. It has long been and still remains the most widely used drug among young people, making alcoholism and alcohol-related problems the number one public health problem in the United States.
April is the annual Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). NCADD says fostering healthy and responsible attitudes, talking openly and honestly, encouraging supportive relationships and showing children that their opinions and decisions matter, are all ways to help prevent the use of alcohol and other drugs. Research shows that kids who have conversations with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use than those who don’t have such conversations.
Here are some guidelines to encourage and assist you in your ongoing conversations with your children:
Listen Before You Talk: As parents we want to have “all the answers.” Sometimes we are so anxious to share our wisdom – or our opinion – that we don’t take the time to listen. For kids, knowing that we are really listening may be the most important thing we can do to help.
Ask Open Ended Questions: Talk to children about their feelings, their friends, and what’s happening in general in their daily lives. Avoid simple “yes/no” questions to get them talking as much as possible.
Be Involved: Get to know your children’s friends and their parents, and don’t hesitate to reach out to check on a gathering they’re hosting or confirm plans of your children going somewhere together.
Set Expectations, Limits and Consequences: Make it clear that you do not want your children drinking or using drugs, as well as the consequences should the rules be broken.
Be Honest, Open and Positive: Talking honestly, openly and positively with a child not only gets him/her educated on the issues, but it helps to build a bridge as opposed to a wall between the two of you.
Share Family History: Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that can be linked to genetics. So, if there is a family history of problems with alcohol or drugs, be matter of fact about it, as you would with any other chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.
Talking with your children about alcohol and other drugs is critical to their health and well-being both now and in the future. The longer children delay drinking, the less likely they are to develop the many problems associated with it. You are your child’s first line of defense. Get the conversation started today!
Learn how to get the drug prevention conversation started at StartTalking.Ohio.Gov.
Sign-up for Know! parent tips.
Return to the Ohio Department of Education’s Start Talking! webpage.
Source: The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. is the founder and sponsor of NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month. For more information please visit www.ncadd.org.