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Talking to Kids about Drugs & Alcohol
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Talking to Kids about Drugs & Alcohol
I am interested in hearing how parents who have engaged in
recreational drug use in the past have discussed this with their
children. Or whether they have at all. I have two kids, 12 and 8,
and we have talked openly and honestly about the effects and
dangers of drugs and alcohol, but they have yet to ask whether we
have used drugs. (They know we drink alcohol in moderation.) I
have smoked pot (smoked quite a lot for about 10 years) and tried
mushrooms and cocaine (didn't like them at all). My husband has
done those drugs much more extensively, plus some others
including LSD. I want to tell my kids the truth, but in a way
that doesn't condone it or make me seem hypocritical. Has anyone
actually had this conversation? I keep thinking about what it
would have helped me to hear at that age, but I can't seem to
figure it out.
Don't Want to Get Caught Off Guard
I say, LIE! I'm in the same situation with a 15 year old. I don't tell her what I did, but
sometimes I indicate that I have tried stuff in order to tell her I know what she's
going through, and then I follow up with a bad story (not lies). She doesn't need to
know all the stupid and unhealthy stuff I did. I need to use my knowledge to help
her stay off the stuff, not to say it's okay for her to try it. I am also dealing with her
being somewhat genetically sensitive to addiction. Her father and grandparents on
both sides were alcoholics (and drug addicts) and we feel it's best to try and help
her to avoid it altogether. To help her see that it's not going to help her in her life to
get involved in it.
I hope this helps...
Do your kids REALLY need to know everything about you?
Sometimes I think we are lead astray by the notion of
being ''honest'' with our kids. I did a lot of drugs too when I
was younger, and when the time comes to discuss drug use with
my kids, that's where ''open and honest'' will end. I plan to
say that I experimented a bit but quickly learned how dangerous
and what a waste of time it was. And I plan to tell them
stories about the people I hung out with who went on to harder
drugs and ended up junkies, etc. I'm not above telling them
the worst of it and leaving the details about myself vague, at
best. Or downplaying them, or omitting them altogether. When I
think back on the bad judgement I had and the risks I took, I
feel really lucky that something dire didn't happen to me, and
my parents were fairly clueless. I would be beyond grief if
anything happened to my kids because of drinking or drugs, so I
would try all means to disuade them. After that, their fate is
ultimately in their own hands, I guess. Good luck!
I was very honest with my kids, now in their 20's,
when they asked me "did you ever try ...?" Now, I would not tell an 8-year-old
about my drug use, but when my kids were 14 or 15 and we had these discussions,
I knew that their friends were starting to experiment with this, and I wanted
to be able to give them better advice about it than they'd get from their friends.
I used it as an opportunity to point out the down side of drugs, using my own
first-hand hippie-girl experience. I was able to tell them about bad things
that happened to people I knew, and also to give my own opinions about
using alcohol, marijuana, and harder drugs. It is hard to do this without
glorifying drug use. But not impossible. I think that my kids were much
more mature than I was in the decisions they made about
drug use at 17, 18, 19, and
hopefully had fewer bad experiences than I did. I have talked with other parents
about this who felt they needed to conceal their past experience and I respect
that decision too, but for us in our family, it was important for me to
My husband and I are wrestling with the following issue: We
have two elementary school kids, third and fifth grade. Our
elder will be heading in to a new school in a short time. We'd
like to learn from other parents at what age your kid
encountered pot, started smoking pot, what you did to either
prevent it or how you helped your child to manage it. And of
course there's lots of literature about being honest with your
kid when they ask about how much you got high, but we haven't
been asked that question yet, and I'd love to learn how other
parents responded. Many thanks.
anticipating the issue in advance
I encountered marijuana while in 5th grade at Joaquin Miller in
1981. My sister was in 7th grade at Montera and started smoking
then. We moved to Palo Alto partly to get away from the drugs at
Montera, but alas, I started smoking pot in 8th grade in Palo
Alto. I remember having drug education and learning about pot in
my 7th grade science class and thinking that I would never do
drugs. That lasted less than one year. Don't dispare however,
my sister and I are both very responsible upper-middle class
members and good mothers now.
Well, I'd think a lot depends on (ahem) are you still smoking
If not, I think the thing to say is, ''Well, yeah, I've done it,
but I don't think it was a very mature thing to do.'' This is
pretty much what my dad (Cal, Class of 1971, so you know what he
was doing as an undergrad) told me, and I decided to pass on the
whole experience. It just didn't seem like something that the
adults I respected did, and at 14 I desperately wanted to seem
If you are, um...look, I grew up knowing kids whose folks smoked
out, and, um...the kids didn't end up having a lot of respect
for their parents.
Keeping all this in mind, I think I'd bring it up with your
older kid pretty soon, because I know it'll come up by the time
s/he gets to middle school.
I also tend to think you should discourage school-aged kids from
smoking weed...their brains are still growing. As Chef on South
Park says, ''There's a time and a place for everything, and it's
I wouldn't just talk about marijuana, either -- there are a lot
of drugs and chemicals out there (I still remember being told as
a college freshman that huffing air duster was way safer than
smoking pot...yeah, riiiight) and most of them will mess you up,
so it's better to skip the whole experience.
I've never read anything on the subject, but it seems like they
will be more likely to bring up this subject if you bring it up
first thus demostrating that its OK to talk about with you. kids
get exposed to drugs at very early ages these days and it's most
important that they know you feel OK about talking about this
stuff so they can come to you with questions when they have
them. you might just ask if they've encountered or if they know
anyone who uses and what they think of that. and tell them what
your concerns are.
My daughter is in 8th grade and by this time she has heard A LOT about pot. I can't
remember when we started talking about it, but it hasn't been such a big deal. We
have been at parties when people are smoking (not that she was near enough to
really get what was happening), and could smell it, or our neighbors are smoking
and it's wafting down the hallway. I was on the fence about telling her my own
experiences until this year. I felt it was time we could have a conversation about it
and she should hear real stories. I didn't like smoking that much when I was a
teenager, so my stories are not glorifying it. My pot-smoking years were very short.
Had I liked it, I think I would just say, and I do, that pot takes you out of your
you have less control over your actions, and continual pot-smoking (in my
experience) makes people less motivated to get anything done. Her father would
''it makes you stupid''! That said, if or when she wants to try it out, I would
feel like she could at least try it and see for herself. I hope I don't freak-out!
would want her to be safe wherever she is and to know what she is smoking. In my
day there was a lot of crap that was added to make it more powerful with mixed
results and sometimes bad ones. They get information in school in health classes
also. I guess I would bring it up when it seemed appropriate, either when your son
asks, or after you walk through a cloud of it on Telegraph Ave.! Good luck
Hello-- this is truly a tuffy but, i think i ight be able to help a
First off, 3rd grade (8-9 yrs old) is too young to talk about pot.
It's too abstract. The concept is out of reach and not yet
something so easily undertsood. It'll open up a can of
worms filled with 'Why?' questions... and unless you are
prepared to answer them ALL you're better off just waiting till
they are 12.
If you don't answer them all, then their curiousity will be
forever piqued, they will talk to peers seeking answers to the
unanswered questioned, who will, in turn, talk to their
parents and that could be a bad domino effect...depending
on who calls you to 'discuss' this issue. Yikes!
Age 12, like with sex education, is a pretty solid age to
introduce your children to the general aspects of marijuana
use. Now, a lot of people are going to advise you to talk
about how bad it is to 'get high'. That it'll rot your brain, things
like that. But, negative reinforcement only raises interest
level. Because, in a strange way, just like how candy is bad
for your teeth, it'll seems more inticing.
Might I suggest a better way to explain the negative effects of
marijuana? Outline where it comes from and how it
eventually gets into the hands of people on the streets, or in
schools, etc. (i.e. drug traficking, drug related violence, etc.)
Explain that people who need it for it's medicinal properties
can get it legally through doctors. And they get it from people
who grow it to be used specifically for medicine. For
ailments such as glaucoma, pain related to cancer and
AIDS, sleep disorders, stress, etc.
After that is digested, then maybe try introducing some of the
basic side effects: memory loss after prolonged use, it IS
addictive, bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss.
Also: since you're on the subject of drug use, why not
explain how alcohol and cigarettes, who's easy accesibilty,
has more detrimental effects beyond belief. Alcoholism and
violence, drunk driving, lung cancer, mouth cancer, the list
literally goes on and on.
If I were you, i'd be more concerned about what is actually
readily available in stores as a commom product. Because,
those are the TRUE 'gateway drugs'. (But, don't tell Phillip
And you know .... a lot of kids are never actually exposed to it.
Maybe they don't run in the right circles or they're too busy
with extra-cirricular activities. But, i think the truth about the
how's, where's, and why's is your best bet.
Real understanding instead of scare tactics.
Because, in the end, if a joint is passed his way at a party in
high school, it'll ultimately be his decision whether or not to
take that first puff.
~Hope this helps~
In my 16 years of experience talking to children and young
people about drugs and drug related issues I have found one
thing to consistently be true. Ask before you speak. What they
know, how they know, what their friends say, what they have seen
etc. This will give you a much better idea of what question
they are really asking-is about drugs, relationships, biology,
family, risk taking, the enticment of danger or the unknown.
Once you have that, you can then tailor your answer
Our culture gives huge double messages about drug use and
pleasure, as do most of us as parents. Sugar is an incredibly
dangerous substance and highly addictive(try to go a couple of
days without eating something sweet to really experince the
true nature of addiction and withdrawal) and yet we often feed
it to our children with a minimum of regret. Our childrens
birthday parties are models for adolescent binge drinking, and
the media is rife with ads for sugary treats and pills to cure
every minor ill. Yet we cringe when we talk to our children
about marijuana or our use. Our cultural dilemma truly
I believe that age appropriate open discussion about self care,
pleasure, exploration and curiosity, danger and risk is
essential in todays world. By contextualizing the discussion of
drug use within these larger topics we openly face the issue
without giving it an aura of romance or adding more fear than
is absolutely neccesary.
this page was last updated: Feb 3, 2008
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