Talking to your kids about drug misuse and abuse is never easy. You must consider what needs to be discussed with them, and how you will share these drug facts with them. If you have used drugs at one point in your life, chances are you’ll also end up telling them about your own drug abuse stories.
However, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests it’s better if parents leave out their personal experience with drugs if they want their kids to really listen.
Jennifer A. Kam, an assistant professor of communication at the university and co-author of the study, told NPR that when it comes to addressing their past, parents shouldn’t lie — neither should they volunteer details of their drug use.
“There could be explanations for it,” said Kam. “Kids might be interpreting it as ‘Mom and Dad used, and they’re still here.'”
Kam and colleagues surveyed more than 500 sixth- to eight-grade students in Illinois to confirm previous studies that found teens were less likely to use illegal substances if their parents told them their past experiences with drugs.
The researchers instead found that kids of parents who disclosed their past drug use were more likely to report that using drugs wasn’t problematic.
So what should parents tell their kids about drug abuse then?
According to Kam, it is much better if parents talk about the dangers of using banned substances and how to avoid them rather than talking about their own use of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes. Kam also recommends making the anti-drug message the topic of an ongoing conversation as opposed to having just one big talk about drugs.
“I would encourage parents to clearly tell their kids they don’t approve of using [and that] there are consequences,” Kam says. She recommends advising children on how to avoid offers of illicit substances, establishing family rules and talking about other people who got in trouble from using.