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5 tips for talking to your children about drugs and alcohol

27 November 2015

5 tips for talking to your children about drugs and alcohol

Salvation Army officer Major Beth Twivey, a mother of three who works in the drug and alcohol recovery area, shares some tips on talking to your children about alcohol and drug use.

1. Be firm and consistent

Be firm and consistent in your approach to alcohol/drug use. In my case it’s abstinence. However, even if it’s not abstinence, kids will pick up on a parent’s hypocrisy in this area. Most clients I have met over the years working in recovery indicated that their first ‘try’ of alcohol or marijuana was from a family member or in the presence of a family member.

2. Look for opportunities for ‘conversation’ with them

I often found the best time to talk to my kids was in the car, when I was picking them up from school. Relaxed conversations when you're preparing something in the kitchen together or playing a game or watching TV seem to work best. I think that if kids aren’t looking directly at you or if they’re a bit distracted, they tend to open up more.

3. Tell a story

In my work with the Salvos, I've spent time helping men who have had a significant issue with alcohol and/or other drugs. We would sometimes tell our children a person’s story (without all the details that would disclose the actual person). We would share the stories with grace and without judgement but our kids seemed to come to a point of seeing the mess that substance use can cause not only for the individual but also for their family members – particularly when stories involved kids their age.

4. Ask open questions

I tried to ask questions that weren't direct or accusing, such as:

- Has anyone at school ever told you that they’ve used drugs? 

- I heard that drugs are on the increase in our area – have you seen any of this at school? 

- What do you think the party will be like? 

5. Don’t look shocked

I always tried not to sound or look too shocked when my kids disclosed any information on the subject. For example, “one of the boys at school offered me a drink the other day” or “my friend told me they sneak alcohol at home sometimes”.  If I didn’t sound or look too shocked I felt it would open up further conversation. However, if I appeared overly judgemental they may have felt uncomfortable talking to me and it may have prevented future discussions on the topic. 

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