Paul Dillon, author of “Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs”and Generation Next speaker says that in today’s society children are introduced to drugs from an early age; if they have a cough we give then ‘medicine’ for it. So there is no reason why we can’t introduce the idea of drugs at an early age and build on that knowledge later to alert them to the dangers and risks of taking illicit drugs.

Tips on educating children about taking drugs

1. When they are young you can read the instructions out loud to children before giving them medicine. This sends a simple message that it is important to follow instructions when taking medications. Point out that medications and drugs can be dangerous when used inappropriately.

2. Build an ongoing dialogue and keep the lines of communication open, if you wait until you find out your child is taking drugs to talk to them then it is likely to lead to frustration, anger and a breakdown in communication. Watch out for everyday opportunities where you can naturally raise the topic of drugs, keeping the conversation age appropriate. There are many items in the news everyday which can easily lead a casual discussion about drugs.

3. Don’t push it. If a child makes it clear they do not want to talk about drugs and there is not an urgency to do so then respects the child’s wishes and wait for a time when they are more receptive. Just reassure the child you are always available to talk whenever they want to.

4. Social pressures are more likely to influence young people when it comes to experimenting with drugs than anything else. Young people may perceive that at parties’ people who are taking drugs seem to have a ‘good time’, this is confirmed by images they see in the media of celebrities having a good time. Give your teenagers an ‘out’ by discussing ways in which they can say no to drugs while out socially and still look cool. They include things like, “I’m training for a big game next week and I need to be as fit as possible” or “maybe later I’ve already had a few”.

5. Peer pressure also plays its part. Many teenagers think that everyone gets drunk and takes drugs, especially at parties. However it is important to point out to young people that although statistics might say 10% of young people binge drinking and taking drugs, this means 90% are not. Help your child put it into perspective. Peers only become more important and influential than parents if there is a breakdown in communication so try to maintain a positive caring and open relationship with your young person.

Paul Dillon will be giving a drug and alcohol update at the Mental Health and Wellbeing for Young People seminars being held in Canberra on 8 June, Adelaide on 22 June and Sydney on 20 July. For more details and to register go to Mental Health and Wellbeing for Young People Seminars.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source:  Paul Dillon. Australian Drug Information Network