Talk early, and we don’t mean in the morning
No age is too early to have age appropriate discussions. Get into the habit of having open conversations with your kids about sensitive subjects starting when they’re young. Four or five years old is not too young, if done right. Remember, our kids go to other kids’ homes. What will they see in the house, in sibling rooms or in the medicine cabinet? We don’t know what could be lying around the house or what they may be exposed to while there. Education starts young. We help them understand right and wrong and just as important is teaching good and bad and the importance of talking to Mom and Dad (yes, they can break the silence!!!)
- The average age of the first time pill abuse is 14 years old
- The average age of the first time marijuana use is 12 years old
Look for opportunities to talk often
Think about this. How important is any subject if it is never talked about? Exactly, not very and our kids know it. There are opportunities presented regularly to engage in conversations with our kids. The media, sports, Hollywood and school events never seem to provide a shortage of topics. When we talk often, we create open dialogue with our kids about sensitive subjects which helps them come to us with the troubling issues…if we talk right.
The right talk track
The biggest mistake I made as a parent was talking to my kids about drugs as opposed to talking with them. I am guilty of the “drugs are for losers” comments, never realizing that if my kids were ever in trouble, why would they want me to think they were losers? I was wrong and that may have had an impact on Robby.
How do we talk right? Here are a few suggestions;
- Talk with our kids, not at our kids. Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings about things. We may uncover fears they have or perceptions that need to be addressed.
- Ask questions and let them talk. Invite their opinions. It shows them a different level of respect, and by asking questions we allow are able to dig deeper into what they know, what they have seen and what they have experienced. Even when we want to reach out and give them the preverbal smack to the back of the head for what they are saying, let them talk. We as parents learn, and if we get in the habit of cutting them off, we lose the opportunity to learn now and in future discussions.
- Listen with our eyes. Watching their body language when we ask questions can tell us as much as listening with our ears. It allows us the opportunity to encourage further explanations, and allows us to uncover things they may be hiding.
We must not be afraid of learning what we may not want to know. Nobody wants to have this issue in their home, and we certainly are not prepared for it. Talking early, often and right not only enhances prevention, but helps us uncover issues our kids are facing earlier, when help can prevent bigger issues.