The War On Drugs: Silent Signals
We are losing the war on drugs. Whether through ignorance or a naïve belief it couldn’t happen in your family, the epidemic is spreading. What can we, as parents do, to educate our children to the dangers of drugs? The answer is communication, early and often. Does this mean we need to start haranguing children with anti drug rhetoric? No, in fact, taking that way may actually increase a childs curiosity as to what is really going on behind all the anxiety. Instead, develop the habit, early on, of having an open and relaxed way of talking to your children. The younger the better. Educate yourself thoroughly on all the narcotics currently available, how they are made, what they are called, and what the effects are. This may seem like a huge chore, but I firmly believe it is a parents responsibility to do so.
How young do we start with this kind of information? And how do we even bring it up? Surprisingly, the answer is you don’t. The first attitudes about drugs, come from a child observing his parents. If the child sees Mom or Dad come home from work, and immediately pour a drink, or pop a pill, a powerful message is being sent. If at every party or social function, drinking is present, the child begins to get the idea, that he or she needs something to make them happy and relaxed.
Our culture is permeated by drug messages. On T.V., on any given day, drugs are offered to help you sleep, stop your allergies, help you lose weight and lessen social anxiety. We are a drug ridden society on many levels. Coupled with the often romantacized, idealised movie versions of drug trafficking, children get the message that drugs are not only OK, but a necessary part of life. It is this that we must first address with our kids. How?
First, watch your own behavior around your children. I was very fortunate that my physician pointed this out to me, after diagnosing me with Lupus. He said I should try and minimise the childrens observing me taking medications. That with a chronic and painful illness it would be very easy to impart the wrong message to my kids. What I do is explain the function of each medication, and why I take it. I try and let them see that even though I have access to potent painkillers, I rarely use them- only when I really need them. For most people this is not an issue, but remember, the casual popping of 4 or 5 Tylenol every time you get a twinge, is still sending a message to your child.
Talk about commercials in a low key way. You might say something positive like: “ Gee, I bet taking a brisk walk after dinner, might help better than that pill would” Or “Hey, hasn’t anybody heard about a warm glass of milk before bed?” How about: “ We can have a great time without drinking” Then show your children you can. It’s these subtle but powerful parental messages, that can impact the negative effects of all this drug input. As your children reach the 6-10 year old range, you can start bringing up anti drug topics, still in a relaxed informative way. Watch shows that allow you to utilise what you are seeing, as a way to open the conversation. My boys are 9 and 10. Today, we happened to see Montel Williams show on methamphetamine. As we watched, I saw how truly impressed they were by seeing in “real time” what I had been telling them. Both of them wanted to know how anyone could sniff or inject a chemical made with acetone, paint thinner, windex and other toxic compounds. And I told them, “You heard it from me, now you see for yourselves the ugly harsh reality of street drugs. So, when a friend suggests these are way cool drugs to do, you now know better.”
Drugs cross all racial, economic and demographic boundaries. There is no such place as a safe haven from drugs. We will never win this war, when the enemy is us- the consumer. We will never win this war by hiding and telling ourselves, no not my child. A truly excellent movie that hits hard at the reality of drugs in the US, is Traffic. This is hard hitting, grittily realistic, and very very well done. In my opinion, it shows what happens when parents refuse to grasp the reality of the danger to our kids, until it’s much too late.
Don’t wait to talk to your children. Build the bonds of trust and respect early. Show your children that you know what you are talking about. That you cared enough to learn. If you don’t, the price you pay may be much higher than you ever thought it would be.