Moms Columns & Blogs

Talking to your tween about substance abuse

Written by Melissa Kluska

Believe it or not, it is never too soon to speak with your children regarding alcohol or drug use.

You may have noticed that kids these days are more mature and less innocent than perhaps you were at their age. We can thank the Internet for this and the era of cell phone, text messages and Facebook.

Children can view anything on the Internet and are learning more mature behaviors at an earlier age, and that is why we as parents need to create open communication with them as soon as possible.

While you may think it is not a good idea to introduce the idea of alcohol or drugs to your tween, it might actually work in your benefit to not keep it a secret from them.

After all, they will soon begin being curious about substance use once they enter the experimental teens years. While you still have a captive audience, educate them on the basics of substance use and keep the dialog open.

Here are a few tips to help you talk with a pre-teen or tween about substance use:

Don’t scare them.

When it comes to alcohol and drugs scare tactics often don’t work. That is because a large majority of their friends who will begin experimenting with alcohol or other substances make these behaviors appear cool and grown up.

As a child embarks on their teen years, they have a growing desire to appear more mature for their age. They may believe that drinking or drug use will give them this type appearance.

Telling a preteen that drugs can kill them or alcohol is bad will not sink in and can sometimes peak their interest more. Many schools initiate anti-drug awareness campaigns but never really discuss the true consequences of drug use besides death or jail time.

It’s important for your preteen to know that drug or alcohol use can also interfere in a different way with their future.

Avoid lecturing or speaking in an angry way about alcohol or drugs.

Try not to sit down and lecture your preteen all in one night about substance use.

Instead talk on occasion about alcohol or drug use, especially if it comes up in a movie, in your community or any other scenario. The more comfortable you appear talking to your tween the more comfortable they will feel opening up to you about alcohol or drugs. Making substance use taboo can sometimes close off communication with your teen or not prepare them for the time when they are faced with the choice to drink or try drugs.

Try to use these opportunities to give them safety tips if they ever choose to drink or even educate them on how to drink in moderation.

Talk about peer pressure.

Your tween will eventually start facing peer pressure especially when it comes to substance use.

While you still believe that your teen would not hang out with a group of friends who experiment with substance use at a young age, it will be better to educate them early on instead of having them drinking or trying a drugs first.

Talk to them about making choices and the consequences that follow them. Again, don’t save up the conversation for one night, but make sure to cover important issues like drinking and driving, mixing drugs with alcohol, or substance that is offered to them by a stranger.

While you may feel like your pre-teen is growing up too quickly it will be better to educate them before they are fully engaged in the teen years. Teens often have a slight rebellious stage where they do the exact opposite of what their parents want.

However, it has been proven that teens do keep the opinions of their parents in the back of their mind and often take them into consideration before engaging in drinking, drugging or partying. Educating your child on substance use is much different than encouraging them to do so, it’s important to keep them safe and knowledgeable in any situation that may arise in their future.

Melissa Kluska currently writes for St. Jude Retreats, a non 12 step alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. aAs well as writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa enjoys blogging about health and relationships.