It’s never too early to talk to your kids about drugs | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The recent deaths in a summer dance party were a tragic wake-up call for us. Even if the victims were strangers to us, we felt the loss of the four young men and the lone teenage girl. What could have been a bright future for them were snatched away in one night.

It was also a grim reminder of a reality that many parents would rather not think about. After all, we can’t lock up our children at home, and the possibility of a child going to a popular event, or even to a party in a friend’s house, and encountering illegal drugs, is not unlikely, no matter how young they are.

This fear was aggravated by reports that several minors tested positive for shabu and ecstasy after they were brought by their parents to a hospital upon observing unusual behavior. They were ages 12-15, and were in the same dance party.

Children are now exposed to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs at a much younger age than we want them to be. It is, therefore, up to parents to start educating children even earlier.

It’s always better that they learn the facts from us, not from others who may not have their best interest at heart.

You don’t start when they are 16 years old. You lay the groundwork as early as the preschool years, and add layer upon layer over the years. By then, one hopes that they will have a strong and deeply rooted conviction that will give them strength to resist the temptation to try drugs.

From every piece of advice worth reading, I’ve narrowed it down to what seems most practical and effective—and  hope it will help us keep our children safe.

    • Preschool

The preschool age of 3 is the ideal time to educate children on healthy lifestyle choices. At this stage, they still idolize their parents and strive to earn their approval. Since their exposure to a harmful environment is still regulated, they may not even have heard about drugs and other vices.

Positive choices

Focus on positive lifestyle choices and actions. Encourage them to eat healthy and get active by explaining the benefits at their level, such as being able to play and not having to stay away from their friends or take bitter medicines.

You can already touch lightly on drugs by educating them on basic safety actions such as never accepting candies from strangers because these may contain harmful ingredients.

Though the possibility may be remote, they need to learn as early as possible that not everything in this world is good for them. Be clear in describing how these substances can hurt them, but stay in the present tense, as future effects are too difficult for young children to grasp.

    • School-age children

Depending on your child’s maturity, this is usually from ages 5 to 8. As they enter school and broaden their exposure, they will learn more from media and their friends.
It is important that parents are there to filter the things they learn about. They may not always get the correct image in media, which tends to  glamorize harmful vices.

Point out what is wrong with the picture so that they know that not everything they see should be copied.

It has been proven that parental opinions strongly influence children’s decisions. Don’t be afraid to clearly state your objection to drugs and other vices, and why you feel this way. Your objection will create a lasting impression and will be the most important factor to your children.

Take advantage of this stage, when your children are open, without turning your conversations into lectures. Chances are, you will come across many “teachable moments” with your child, whether on TV or in real life, where you can point out an unhealthy practice and explain its side effects.

You can also explain addiction to help them understand what makes a person do something that could hurt them. And, yes, let them know that doing drugs can be fatal.

Double up your efforts

    • Tween/preteen age

No longer limited to double-digit ages, this now refers to children from age 9 onwards. At this stage, it’s time to double up on your efforts.

It’s more than just establishing what is good and bad for your body. It’s time to build up character and be vigilant about who your children spend their time with. As parental influence decreases and peer pressure increases, it is important to make sure that your child is not running around with people who can offer them access to drugs.

Get involved in your children’s lives without intruding, but be present enough to see what is going on, and who they are hanging out with.

When children mature and hormones enter the picture, children will begin experiencing heavier academic, social or personal insecurities and issues. Teach them to always seek “long-term solutions” rather than quick fixes so their inner strength may be developed.

Build up their confidence so that they do not fall for those who will try to manipulate and use their issues against them.

Teach them how to literally say “no.” Children may know drugs are bad for them, but   they may still get curious. Sit down with your child and teach them to say “no” clearly and firmly, then find the right lines he/she is comfortable with as a reason.

Rehearse your child for several possible scenarios, like, for instance, a BFF/crush/cool
upper-class kid offers drugs

Now that the possibility of encountering drugs is more likely, establish a firm and consistent set of rules and the consequences when they are broken. If your child no longer wants to listen to you, he/she will at least fear losing whatever privileges he/she is enjoying.

Talk to children using facts; they will respect you more if you talk to them calmly. Continue to discuss the effects of drugs on their present life, and how drugs can ruin what they have now.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t always have to be heavy and serious. Encourage them to have a healthy, active and clean lifestyle by setting a good example. Get the whole family involved in activities that will strengthen your bond.

Get them involved in sports or hobbies to decrease boredom and develop interests. Find things to do that will help them discover a deeper meaning in their lives, such as outreach programs and charitable organizations.

While I hope that, years from now, we can sigh in relief at having successfully avoided the dangers of illegal substances, reality too often reminds us that there is never a guarantee. No family is immune to the dangers of drugs, and we must always watch out for other factors such as isolation and bullying.

Even children who have had the best guidance can fall victim. By laying the groundwork as early as possible, we can avoid, or at least minimize the threat of drug use.

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