Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Starting the substance abuse conversation

A few nights ago at dinner (heavy topics always seem to come up at dinner), my son asked me why people would want to smoke. We talked about smoking being bad for people's health and all the negative effects it has. He was able to list a lot of them as we talked, but then he pressed a little further. "But if people know it is bad for them, then why do they start?"

I tried to find the language to explain that people will oftentimes try anything to alleviate their stress, but I'm not sure I got out the right words. Also: We were in a restaurant and it was time to eat. The subject was dropped, but I am sure it will come back one day soon, so I am doing research now to be better prepared for next time.

In my research, I stumbled across this article describing how Iceland invested in health and wellness programs for their youth to drastically cut the amount of substance abuse. And it's working. Although the authors and researchers concede that it would be harder to implement in the U.S., there are some key takeaways that all parents can incorporate into their own households:

  • Increasing the amount of family time.
  • Implementing a curfew to keep kids off the streets.
  • Helping children explore activities (sports, music, robotics) in group settings that are supervised by adults.
These seem so simple and yet so complicated, as the schedules of working parents, logistics and money are all huge factors.

But, I think about my son's questions now and how I need to be better prepared to discuss topics like substance abuse. He's definitely worth it.

How do you handle preventative discussions on substance abuse with your children? Tell me your tips in the comments.

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