Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Age, What Strategy

Been thinking recently about what can we do to eliminate the need for these blogs about addiction. If only it were true.

I thought of an exercise in which I hope everyone that reads this blog participates. It's really simple and I'm not asking for a college level thesis just an age and a couple lines of strategy. Please choose only one age and one strategy we need lots of opinions here. With the experience base and knowledge of you all I know there is gold out there yet to be discovered. Here is your challenge:

At what age would you talk to your child about drugs and addiction?

What strategy or words would you employ?


Barbara said...

Ron, great questions. It would be wonderful if talking to kids made a difference, and for some I'm sure it does. For mine, it didn't.

Here are my thoughts based on what I did with Kev:

When he was in 4th grade (age 9/10) they had a drug awareness program. Up to that point he had never mentioned drugs so I had not brought it up, knowing that all the kids learned about them in 4th. The police came in with display cases of what all the drugs, etc. looked like and gave them all a talk about the dangerous of using and how to say no.

Keven came home from the demonstration at school fascinated with all the drugs and paraphernalia he got to see and learn about. He had every drug name memorized and proceeded to tell me how to use each one. I was SHOCKED, it was my first indication that he saw drugs as something "cool", so I began at that time to have very frank discussions with him about my past experience of what drugs do to ruin, or end, a life. I told him of friends I'd had in high school, I told him of statistics, I tried to relate it to him personally saying that he would not be able to pursue his sport if he used drugs, how it would affect his life, etc. etc.

That was my strategy and it failed miserably. He tried weed and alcohol at 15 and by the time he was 17 he had tried every illicit drug known to mankind and was addicted to heroin. I don't know what I could have done differently.

I'm looking forward to reading what others have to say.

Fractalmom said...

AM doing.

Age. LOL, omgosh. 3 and up? Why is Mommy sleeping in the dishwasher? Because she is high on drugs. That is what drugs do to you. Do you want to fall asleep in the dishwasher and look funny like that with drool all over you? NO! Good then. Don't EVER do drugs.

Strategy? Introduce them to some real loser junkies. Then, show them pictures of them when they were kids, like them. Honor students, like them. Tell them what happened, that they thought it was okay, that they thought it was cool, that they thought THEY could control it. And found out they were wrong. Introduce them to some of the kids that did NOT use drugs. Take them to see their houses, their cars. Their iPhones, their lives. Their offices.

Kids aren't stupid. I was stupid. I never thought to warn my kids off heroin. Didn't even realize it was in the picture. Do now.

age: EARLY
Strategy. Unvarnished, unadulterated TRUTH.

sydney said...

Agreed with Dawn, EARLY! My mother was an addict and I witnessed a lot perplexing behavior that was never fully explained to me. Kids KNOW, they are more in tune than you realize. I think age appropriate discussions about all things in the world are good to have in general. Kids respect honesty.

Dawn said...

My kids like Barb's son learned when they were in the 4th or 5th grade. They had the"DARE" program back then in school and my daughter has always told me that sparked her curiosity even more. Shortly after that they both started using. I also believe alcohol has always been way to prevalent and accepted in society. With kids alcohol and drugs often go together.

Notmyboy said...

I don't know that it matters. I talked to my son about the dangers of drugs from as early as he could comprehend language. I told him point blank that if he did drugs he would die...maybe not the first time, but DIE he would.
I also told him that if he smoked cigarettes he would die a painful, cancerous death. When he was in preschool he used to point at smokers and say, "Mommy, he's going to DIE!" (yep, it was THAT embarrassing!)

He told me recently that he was fascinated by drugs for as long as he can remember. He wanted to know how each and every drug felt to take or use. I don't know how a upper middle class suburban boy becomes enthralled in the gangster lifestyle, but he was.

Along those lines, my parent support group is trying to come up with some serious solutions to implement in our local schools. Someone did a huge survey with a bunch of recovering crack addicts. Each one reported that they knew how addicting crack is and that only one use would get them hooked for life. They all smoked the crack anyway.

I don't think we can stop those that want to do drugs. Something must be missing in their life for them to try it in the first place. Unless we are mind readers, we'll never which ones are the ticking time bombs.

Anonymous said...

Wish it was as simple as picking the right age to start "the talks" and knowing the "right" words to use. I do believe the DARE program is a complete and utter failure. My addict laughs at it. We can start talking early, be honest, be supportive involved parents and still one kid will turn to drugs and the sibling will not. Oops, forgot to add prayers - lots of prayers! the best you can, love your kids, and if something in them turns to drugs keep loving them and praying that they find their way out of the pit before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

I did it beginning at 11, 12, 13, and so on. On a regular basis. I was also worried about cigarettes because they are so addicting. I would begin by asking about what they knew from people at school and what they thought. I would talk about how the real danger is not the drug itself but the fact that you can become addicted after trying it only one time. So far, so good, knock on wood. And I KNOW that this is sheer luck. I am grateful for this.

VJ said...

Good idea Ron.

Age ten.

Discuss with the child in a family meeting what he would expect his parents to do if he was using alcohol or other drugs. Let him decide the consequences, in writing. Let him know how the family would be devasted if he/she was to make the chice to use alcohol or other drugs.

Just an idea.

My personal opinion is the diesae cannot be stopped regardless of what we, as parents do.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how I can answer just one age because it's totally based on the situation. If they are living with an active addict, I would start immediately no matter they age as long as they had language. I might use words like "sick" and other simple easy to relate to words.
I'm an alcoholic in AA. I've had to be very honest and open with my kids about both my alcoholism and their genetic possibilities. I have never tried to tell them not to drink. I tell them that they can't drink until they are legal. I tell them that drugs are illegal and therefore never okay.
I tell them about me. They've seen the destruction that alcohol does. Now, I have to help them understand that just thinking you won't behave like that might not be the most workable strategy.
For me, my day to day life is the best conversation. I go to meetings every day. I've made amends. They see not only the destruction but what it takes to rebuild a life.
I think that pretending that children who may be predesposed genetically to addiction won't drink and, possibly, become addicted to drugs or alcohol is a waste of time. I want them to recognize the signs of addiction and alcoholism. I want them to understand that they are not exempt just because they watched me or that they can think "I'll never do that". If you could say that and have it work, I would have.
So, I talk to them about me. What I did before, how I got help and what I do now to make sure that I don't go back. And, I try to walk the walk.

Erin said...

I started talking to my boys about it when they were in grammar school and continued to talk to them about it through junior high and high school and of course after that as well. When my middle son started using drugs I made it a point to tell him about the dangers of heroin how that was the worst drug out there. I referred to Jerry Garcia who said it was like having the devil on his back all the time and he just couldn't shake it. I also shared with them about both of my parents being alcoholics. When my son who eventually became addicted to heroin was smoking pot I immediately put him in a program. I don't know Ron one out of three boys became addicted, he has been clean for about 8 months now when we talk about the past he said that there was nothing I could have said or done that would have made him stop. I'm not saying that we should not educate our children because even if one is reached it is totally worth it.

Kristi said...

I can't add anything new to what has already been said here. And like so many others, my son became fascinated and obviously way to curious about drugs and their effects. This happened around the time that "DARE" hit his age group at school...4th or 5th grade maybe? Can't recall for sure.

One thing I'll add is that my 17 year old daughter recently commented out of the blue that when she has kids she's going to tell them that they have a terrible heart condition and if they ever use any drugs at all they will instantly drop dead. If I had thought that would have worked, I would have done it!!

John said...

I think the vital thing is to demystify things - I'm 31, a reformed crack addict, but I am still a very regular user of heroin. I like it and will not stop (but I am fortunate in that my income is healthy, and I have a stable family and home life. Incidentally, my son knows nothing about my use, and I have no drugs or paraphenalia in or near my home).

The biggest thing is that kids do something forbidden and glamorous, it's not as dramatic as they expect, and their idea of normal shifts.

I let my 4 year old son have watered wine with Sunday Lunch. I will be honest with him about where drugs take you, and what happens. I will introduce him to a number of addicts, and show the negatives.

I'll do it as and when he asks.

Annette said...

Everyone has already given so many good answers. I will just be repeating some of what has already been said. I agree with those who feel that talking about it isn't the key. If it was my family wouldn't be in this position. Since my parents were both alcoholics and one was addicted to prescription drugs, I knew all the risks and the genetic predisposition, and I talked to my kids about it from an early age. Preschool age. It didn't help. I handled it in all of the logical ways....using only age appropriate terms, being honest, they had lots of live examples of what addiction can do to one's life. I think if its going to happen, its going to happen. I don't think talking about it will change any of that. These questions make me think of the 3 C's....I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it. I do most definitely think that we should talk to our kids about addiction....I just don't think it will ensure that they never get involved in addiction.

Tori said...

All these comments are very interesting. I started talking to Blake about it when he was in pre-school and I honestly don't know why. We didn't have any addicts in either side of our (blood family) and I never thought he would do it since his Dad and I NEVER did drugs. His Dad was quite poplular in a hard core Punk band and we were surrounded by it but for some reason it wasn't our thing not even drinking - we were lucky. Blake seemed to be intrigued by drugs, thugs and just the lifestyle in general. I wish that I was better educated and when I knew he was starting of with pot and when I knew he was getting worse that the consequences would have started immediately vs. me trying to save him or bribe him. Every addict I spoke with and it is a lot have told me that NOTHING their Parents said would have changed them wanting to try drugs. Maybe DARE and other programs help certain kids but there needs to be a different strategy. I saw a kid who was being interviewed who used to be a football player and A student that was now a vegetable and in a wheelchair (the Parents were actually being interviewed as he sat there) and it was from Oxi and a couple other things. Those type of things make much more of an impression on my younger son than just talking about it. I think taking people like that boy to schools would make more of an impact. Showing pictures of when he was gorgeous and healthy and then looking at him sitting in a chair. It makes more of a difference then Parents saying their child died because they actually see the person. I think I went way off topic.....sorry

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Nancy Reagan "Just Say NO" era and I might be the only one who totally took it to heart. I was terrified of drugs, consequently, have never seen them or been around them. I was convinced that the one time I ever tried drugs I would instantly die and therefore, never did, but also never had the opportunity (ie: did not hang w/ people that did drugs.)

Having said that, I now have two teen daughters and I do mention to them the dangers of drugs. I tell them, probably too much, how terrifying drugs are. I hope and pray every day they listen to me and never get curious.

Anonymous said...

D.A.R.E. is a failure of epic proportions. My son feels strongly that the D.A.R.E. program set him up. The 'facts' and claims put forth in the D.A.R.E. program are wildly inaccurate and some are just plain BS.

He said once he tried pot and discovered that it actually was fun, and his limbs didn't fall off as a result, he decided EVERYTHING they taught in D.A.R.E. was BS.

Have you ever read the material that is presented in a D.A.R.E. program? It's like they are afraid of admitting that yes, getting high does feel good and that you really have to go at it full bore to get addicted. Instead they put out a bunch of scare facts and inaccuracies.

It's a waste of taxpayer dollars and it gives parents a false sense of security. It should be abolished and now. There are studies out that produce concrete data that it is a complete failure.

Laura said...

Through my career I have had extensive training on talking to kids about drugs before they even think about using. In fact I trained 100s of parents with my enthusiastic knowledge. I used everything I learned with my own children. I was horrified when my youngest got involved in heavy drinking, pot and then harder drugs. I kept reminding myself about the "stand alone factor" which is the risk factor that outweighs all others. Kids who "have friends who use and abuse alcohol and drugs" are more at risk to abuse drugs despite other strengths and influences. So preventing your kids from hanging out with kids who abuse drugs may have a bigger impact than talking to them. But realistically how can a parent choose a teenagers friends?
The core issue for my son was craving acceptance from his peers, which I believe is a trait that individuals in a drug abusing crowd share in common. I also believe many kids have that genetic component and have an euphoric response to substances and are drawn to it again and again.
So talking didn't prevent the problems for my son. But who knows if it still had a positive impact. It may have made him more willing to go to treatment and work harder on recovery. It could have made him more cautious in his drug use and less likely to O.D. I just thank God he has survived it all and is 6 months in recovery.
I am still proponent of talking about clear and concise guidelines around the topic of drugs and other family rules and values. I think it is important for kids to know how their choice will impact their family and their individual freedom and priveledges. Of course conveying all this with love :)