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How Young is Too Young to Talk to My Child About Substance Abuse?

The rule of thumb is to not talk to kids about adult situations. Why take away their innocence before it is necessary by giving them information that is over their head? Substance abuse is a seemingly taboo topic that cannot be kept hidden from kids for too long. When an adolescent sees Uncle Johnny get consistently out of control with his words and actions or sees mommy sleeping on the couch all day while being constantly sick, they are more aware then what they are given credit for. On the other hand, kids who witness negative behaviors that are associated with addiction may not know what the problem is and draw a conclusion that everything that is going on is their fault - when it is not. Talking to your child about substance abuse is difficult to gauge. You may not know what to say to them and when to do it. There is no set standard when discussing substance abuse with an adolescent. The key is to make them feel at ease surrounding the unmanageability drugs and alcohol present in the moment. Even if they are unsure of what is going on, they can feel the negative energy out there which should be resolved by you.

9 and under

Younger kids may be aloof to what alcohol and drugs really are. Seeing mommy or daddy drink or use might give them the impression that drinking and using is okay. Set a boundary with them to not take any medication or drink any alcohol without consulting with you first especially since they are not legally old enough. This can set the standard for them now and in the future.

10 to 13

Answer any questions your tween may have to inform them on what drugs and alcohol do. This should not be a time to lecture or criticize but rather a chance to give them insight on how to make better choices for their future. Let them know they can come to you with any questions they may hear or see to alleviate any confusion they may have.

13 to 18

Your best bet with teenagers is to be transparent and give them the truth. They are old enough to read between the lines and if they do not hear it from your perspective, they can be swayed into thinking something other than what your beliefs may be. This is a time kids often start experimenting and you want to be there to walk them through making the right decisions. Talking to your teen will help the both of you when you share your instincts on the matter of substance abuse. You may think you are saving them by not talking to them about something they cannot legally participate in until they are of age. The truth is that you may save their life by being upfront with them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center can help your teen with their drug and alcohol abuse. Our unique, adolescent, substance abuse program provides our patients with a customized and comprehensive level of care to maintain their sobriety.

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