Young children can get very confused of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, they are seen and used widely on TV in movies, the use of alcohol and marijuana is made to look cool in music videos. Then we tell them that alcohol and drugs can be dangerous so how are we to get the message over to them of why they are dangerous and explain what they see on TV is fiction.
Studies have shown that it is never too early to begin teaching your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, studies have recently shown that more and more children are trying alcohol and some form of drug at ages as young as 11.
So what can we do as parents to make sure our children realise the dangers, the answer is simple sit and talk with your child. When children feel they can comfortably talk with their parents then the chances are that they will be more open and ask questions regarding drugs and alcohol. Here are some more ways you can interact with your child and help them realise the dangers:
Make a game of it
You can show your child different scenarios involving drugs and alcohol by using role play. A scenario could be, telling them to imagine that they were at a friend’s house and one of his friends found alcohol in the refrigerator. You could play out what may happen if the children decided to drink it, pointing out how ill it could make them and the feelings that alcohol would give them.
Or try asking them what they would do in this situation if it arose, if your child gives a suitable answer then praise them, if they don’t then explain to them why it is a bad thing for them to drink.
Only tell your child what information is appropriate for their age
When you talk with your child only talk with them about things that are appropriate for their age and that they will understand. Examples if this are, if you have a 6 year old then when they are brushing their teeth talk to them about how important it is for them to take care of their body.
Then explain to them that are also some things that are harmful to our body and we shouldn’t do such as smoking or drinking. If you have a 9 year old and something such as marijuana is mentioned on TV then you could ask them if they know what that is.
You could then explain that it is a bad substance and if your child wants to talk more about it or ask questions then answer them truthfully. An older child could be told more specific information on the dangers of the drug; a little common sense should be used as to how much information your child is able to take in.
Make sure you set boundaries
It is important that boundaries are set from an early age so that your child understands clearly what is and is not allowed. For example make sure they know that drugs and alcohol won’t be tolerated, stating that the only drugs which are safe to take are the ones you give them when they are ill.
Set a good example
If you like a drink in the home as a way of relaxing every now and again then try not to drink in front of your child, this often confuse a young child if you are telling them that alcohol is bad then they see you reaching for a drink the minute you get home from work.
Also try not to let your child see you taking over the counter medicines often this can also confuse a young child and may lead them to believe that if their mum or dad is taking medication on a regular basis then it must be safe for them too.
What to do if you suspect a problem with your child
It is very rare for a child under the age of 12 to develop an addiction, but it occasionally does happen.
Signs to watch for in your child are
- The onset of poor results in school
- Your child turns extremely moody
- Your child becomes withdrawn
- Medicine or alcohol starts disappearing from home
If you suspect your child may have a problem then first talk with your child, then visit your Doctor who will give them a through check up and determine how bad the problem is and what type of treatment if any is needed. If nothing else your Doctor will probably ask that you attend family counselling.