There was a recent article that discussed what boundaries to set when talking to your kids about drugs. I found this research to be thought-provoking and a bit contrary to what I would think, but it makes sense. Kids, especially elementary and middle school aged kids are highly susceptible to mixed messages and it can be confusing to them when a parent tries to say two things at once - “Don’t do drugs” and “I have done drugs, but you shouldn’t”.
In fact, research shows that telling your kids about your own personal drug use can translate in their minds to “well it wasn’t so bad, because they are successful, even after experimenting with drugs”. Instead, discussing the dangers of drug and alcohol use and having an open discussion is a more proactive approach. The study, which was conducted on about 500 6th to 8th graders, had lower reported levels of alcohol and marijuana use when their parents had taken an anti-drug stance as opposed to relaying messages of regret about past use. Parents who communicated regret over their own past drug use had an affect on their kids that was actually more “pro-substance”.
In the case where parents shared their stories with their children, the kids got the impression that drug use was more prevalent than they had thought and felt like it had lesser consequences since their “responsible” parents used drugs in the past. Parenting in general is difficult and looked at in different ways by different people. Bringing up children that know how to make healthy choices and know that their parents love and support them is one of the most important things. Additionally, timing plays a big role; knowing when to disclose information and when not to nag. Creating good boundaries that encourage prevention and open discussion are essential to raising healthy, addiction-free kids.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.