It’s the kind of conversation nobody wants to have with their kids. You don’t even envision that something like this can touch their lives at such a young age. We all had the ‘just say no’ talk when we were growing up, and imagined scary drug dealers on street corners trying to lure us kids in to smoke marijuana. I knew to say no, and that my brain would look like a fried egg if I took drugs. That was the extent of my drug knowledge as a middle schooler, heading off to high school.
My 3 children are in elementary school and preschool, and I had to have the drug talk with them.
The day I had to talk to my kids about drugs.
Marijuana is now legal, heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade, and addiction to prescription painkillers is a phenomenon that we are just truly starting to confront. Which means that we all know somebody who has either used, is currently an addict, or has died from the deadly effects of narcotics.
As a parent, it is our job to protect our children. To shield them from the evils of this world, for as long as humanly possible. But what happens when the addict is their aunt, their uncle, or an older cousin? And that family member has young children who are suffering? You can hide it for a little bit, with half-truths or breezing over the specifics with a simple, “your Aunt is sick”. But at some point, they demand answers. They are scared that perhaps they can get sick like their Aunt, or wonder why their Aunt is not at the family get together, where she went…or worse, why she has gone away. Again.
For us, the absolute worst reality has hit our family. Their Aunt has overdosed, and is currently in the hospital with a coma declared brain dead.
Outside of the hurt we are suffering from the ‘loss’ of a loved one, and the tragedy and suffering the whole family is dealing with, we needed to address the issue with our children at an age appropriate level. They were not accepting our high-level explanations, and were asking questions to dig deeper to understand the how and why.
They were smarter then we were giving them credit for. Our kids were demanding answers.
Now I cannot say what is right or wrong. Or what a professional psychologist would suggest regarding talking to young children about drugs. I can only tell you how we handled it.
Truthfully, with love.
We explained to our children that their Aunt was very sick, some would call it a disease. That there are bad things out there, as well as bad people, that can hurt them. And that a long while back, their Aunt made some poor decisions in accepting and taking illegal drugs. She knew they were wrong, but she took them anyway. And because of that, over time she became addicted to them. The drugs made her very sick, so sick in fact that she no longer had an easy time making right or wrong choices anymore.
We explained what an addiction was, a habit or a need to do something.
We made sure they knew that their Aunt was not a bad person, but the drugs she was taking were bad. And that she struggled, wanting to not take drugs and tried hard to stay away from them. But once you are addicted to something, it is very hard to let go of it. The drugs killed her.
It is amazing really. Their Aunt was so full of life every time we were around her, and wanted to hug and laugh and tickle her nieces. I know it is hard for my children to reconcile their Aunt with the demons that she faced in life. Their young minds had not yet considered a world in which people could have problems such as this. And quite honestly, I don’t know how much they truly understood. But it answered their questions, and looking back – I am glad we handled it head on. I would rather them hear these hard truths from us, their parents, then from the world.
You never think you are going to have to have these conversations with your kids. And then you find yourself having it.
Their Aunt, she is somebody’s daughter too. Not the ‘druggie’ on the street corner that you imagine.
She has 4 young sons.
Please – talk to your kids about drugs.
Most parents do not think this is an issue, especially at the primary age school level. They wait to handle these types on conversations until they think their kids will actually have to deal with it in real life. But the problem is, your children are more than likely…ALREADY TAKING DRUGS. Every time you administer cough syrup, or get a prescription from the pharmacy you are effectively taking a drug. Now, these drugs are good of course. But it is still a drug, with side effects. Allowing you children to understand this simple fact, at whatever level you feel they can comprehend, is a good thing.
“All drugs, no matter what they are, have a degree of risk associated with their use and we need to make that perfectly clear to our children. If we can communicate these risks to them about legally available products, such as drugs we obtain from a doctor or headache tablets we get from the supermarket, we have a much better chance of getting effective messages about illegal drugs through.”
If they are in elementary school, and around other children and adults – then you can no longer control their every encounter.
It is not too early. There are age appropriate ways we can discuss these topics, even though they scare the begeezesus out of us parents, as we think something like this could never affect our kids. And you are probably right, it won’t. But wouldn’t you rather your child be informed, and that information come from YOU?
You know what your kid can handle, and you will know the right words when you sit down to talk. Trust your maternal and/or paternal instinct, and sit down and have the conversation.
This is one conversation you will never, ever, EVER regret.