AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I DISCUSS
Start with preschoolers
While drug use by for children this age may not be a concern, even young children hear about drugs. Unless adults take the time to help children sort through the messages they receive, what they think they understand about drugs may be far from reality. Moreover, because children who resist early drug experimentation are generally adept at problem-solving and self-help, parents need to ensure that the foundations for these skills are laid down during the preschool years.
Preschoolers regard the adults in their life as all-powerful. Perhaps at no other time in their lives is your approval as highly prized or your teachings as well received as during these early years of unconditional devotion. Remember that both as you talk with your children and as you consider what behaviors you model about the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
As you talk with school-aged children about drug use, remember that children have a hard time focusing on future consequences the here and now is what is important to them. They do, however, understand the reason for rules and appreciate having limits in place. This applies to rules about bed times and homework and to no-use rules about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
With the many dramatic changes taking place within them, young adolescents look to one another for support. “The group” defines what they should wear, what music they should listen to and what activities should occupy their time. It can be very threatening for parents to see the peer group’s values assuming such importance in their child’s lives. Still, children do not relinquish their powers of thought. They approach problems systematically, try to see things from different perspective, have a marked sense of right and wrong and are ready champions of justice.
When looking at drug and alcohol use, parents must recognize that young adolescents are easily swayed by what their peer group feels is appropriate. Self-doubt can also make youth vulnerable to the “quick fixes” of tobacco, drugs and alcohol. However, with expanding social consequences, young people may view the refusal to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs as a civic responsibility. Young adolescents are also concerned about their appearance. If they believe drug and alcohol use will impair their looks and health, they are unlikely to be tempted by these practices.