If we address behavioral issues like experimenting with drugs and other risky behaviors proactively, perhaps we can curb  the likelihood of a big problem occurring. Either way, before or after, we have to address the issue, so we might  as well have the conversation now.

It is never too  early to talk  to children about alcohol and other drugs. Children  as  young as  nine years old have already started  viewing alcohol  in a more positive way.  About 10 percent of 12-year-olds  say  they  have tried  alcohol,  but by  age  15,  that number jumps  to  50 percent.  Additionally, by the time they  are  seniors, almost 70 percent of  high school  students will have tried alcohol, half will have  taken  an illegal drug  like marijuana, and  20 percent will have used a prescription  drug  for a nonmedical purpose.

We have to show our youth that we care about  the choices they make. Our choices  determine our future. Often youth do not have the hindsight to realize this. If we talk openly about the subject of drugs and alcohol to our youth, then we can bring light and awareness to a subject that thrives in  silence.

The last part of the brain to develop in  youth is the prefrontal cortex, which is  involved in decision-making, judgement, hindsight, empathy, and other important cognitive functions.  This is what makes teenagers so difficult. (It also makes being a teenager pretty difficult too!) The brain continues to develop until 25 years of age, until then, the brain is malleable and  can rewire itself based  on tendencies. This means an adolescent’s brain is exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of drugs!

If youth are spoken to directly and honestly , they are more likely to respect rules and advices about alcohol and drug use. There is  no use sheltering or sugar-coating.

We tend to want to have one “BIG” talk about BIG issues, but it is actually  best to  keep  these conversations  low-key and not try to get everything across  in one talk. Plan to have many, short frequent talk that can mature as they mature. Normalizing this conversation allows  for clear rules and expectations to be set.

Even if you don’t think you kids wants to try, peer pressure is a powerful thing and  something children should  be  prepared  for. Having a “back-up” strategy to get out of situations is helpful, and families can roleplay the situation out.

There are many misperceptions of substance use, and  today with the internet, our youth are  exposed to a plethora of information from  all types  of sources. Let them hear  the truth from  you. The  sooner  we  talk to kids  about  alcohol  and  other drugs, the  greater the  chance  we have  of  influencing their decisions.

 

For more information check out our website: beyondthebellkids.org

And SAMSHA has conversation tips: https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking/parent-resources

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