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Drug Education

Drug education is more than teaching the facts about drugs -- it is teaching children and youth about themselves, what is possible in their life now, and what is possible for the future. Unfortunately, many parents do not talk with their children about the dangers of drug use. Often times children are learning about drug and alcohol use from their peers, who often times themselves are not well-informed about the dangers drugs pose. Parents and teachers can help students learn the complete story about drugs, balancing the misinformation youth generally receive about drugs from their friends, the street and the media. We hope that the information you find here will support your to help with drug education.

Caring adults such as parents, family members and other caregivers have the highest chance of helping today's children grow up to live drug-free lives. The messages parents deliver influence children, not just today, but throughout their lives. Topics such as the use of drugs and alcohol can be difficult subjects to discuss with children. As a parent or caregiver they are however a necessary part of raising a child.

Undoubtedly, the best time for such a conversation about drugs is when your child brings up the topic. As hard as this may be to believe, some children actually do this. For most parents and caregivers, however, it's not this easy and it may become your responsibility to bring up the topic. It is important to pick a time and a place that make it possible for you and your child to be comfortable and undisturbed.

Keep in mind, the purpose of this conversation is drug education. This means listening to everything your child has to say. Observe their body language- they will let you know how they feel about having this conversation. Listening means paying special attention to what is said, both verbally and non-verbally. Talking with your child about drug use should not be an one-time occurrence or an one-way process. Talk with your children often as they grow from preschool to adulthood.

Next you may be wondering, when do I begin these conversations about drug education with my children? It is never too early, start with preschoolers. Children this young are not drug users of course, but if you begin to talk them now, before the problem exists, you can have a substantial impact on them as they grow. The foundation for all healthy habits, from eating nutritious foods to using proper hygiene to dressing appropriately for the weather, begins in the preschool years.

Even though drug use may not be a concern for children in preschool, 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.

  • There are many ways to talk to children about drug education.
    • Ask them what they think about a TV program or story-line.
    • Discuss how TV/storybook characters are like and unlike people they know.
    • Discuss how violence and bad decisions can hurt people.
    • Realize that when you use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, you are sending a message endorsing your children's use of these substances.
    • Give children honest praise for their attempts to take responsibility for their own good health.

Drug education for school-aged children. A typical school aged child is eager to be independent and grown-up. School opens up a new world to children beyond the closeness of family. As children grow older, friends take the example of a role model, and children seemingly live or die based on their friends' opinions. Acceptance can be everything at this age. The advent of reading and writing skills will also make your child a global learner. Because peers and reading skills expand your child's world, messages about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs may be conflicting with the one's you give your child.

As you talk with school-aged children about drug education, 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.

  • Ways of talking to school-age children about drug education.
    • Without putting your child's friends down, underscore your values and the importance of making decisions that are consistent with these values.
    • Talk with the parents of your child's friends to determine if they are giving their children messages that are consistent with yours.
    • Let your child know what is allowable at home and school and what is not.
    • Young adolescents and drug education…
      Between the ages of 10 and 15, children typically move from having good feelings about themselves and their life at home and school to at least some feelings of insecurity, doubt and pressure.

With the many dramatic changes taking place within them, young adults look to one another for support and guidance. "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.

When looking at drug education, 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 adults 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.

Drug abuse can be a difficult topic for many parents but it is a reality every parent must face--head-on. You can't deny it. You can't ignore it. But as parents or other concerned caregivers, you are your children's greatest resource on drug education.