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Red Ribbon Week: Talking to Your Kids About Addiction

As a parent, you want to empower your children to be independent, make good choices, and achieve their goals. You are a powerful influencer in their success. Your children are constantly watching, listening, and learning from you, whether you realize it or not. It may seem as though they aren’t paying attention sometimes, but they’re absorbing a wealth of information from the world around them.

October 23-31 is National Red Ribbon Week. It’s a time to focus on raising awareness and improving education regarding drug and alcohol use. Have you taken the time to start a conversation with your children about substance use? It’s never too early to start instilling healthy habits and strong values. Prevention is not only about keeping drugs and alcohol out of the hands of children – it’s also about engaging them in meaningful activities, increasing communication, building strong relationships, and creating an environment and lifestyle where they feel confident saying no to drug use.

YOLO: You Only Live Once

“YOLO” or “You Only Live Once” is the theme of this year’s Red Ribbon Week. This is a phrase that many youth are used to hearing. Talk to your kids about how it applies to substance use. They only have one life to live, so why risk their potential and the many opportunities that they have in their future? Experimenting with drugs or alcohol even once has the potential to have a major impact on their life. It could get them suspended or kicked out of sports teams, clubs, recreational groups, or other activities, and also affect how well they participate. Young drivers may have their license suspended or revoked. It can also affect their job opportunities later in life depending on the circumstances and severity of the situation.

Spend time talking to your kids about their future and what they want to do. What do they aspire to be? Where do they see themselves five or ten years down the road? Then discuss how using drugs or alcohol could affect them and their goals. What are the physical, mental, social, educational, and legal consequences?

Use Teachable Moments

Talking about drugs and alcohol is not a once-and-done conversation; it is a conversation that should happen over and over again. The discussion will be different depending on the age of your child. As they grow up, they’ll have more in-depth questions and face different challenges. You want to keep these lines of communication open so that they always feel comfortable talking to you, even about difficult challenges.

You don’t have to bring up drugs and alcohol out of the blue. Use teachable moments such as when you’re watching television or a movie together, listening to the news, or driving to soccer practice. Discuss the decisions that characters on TV are making: are they good or bad choices? What does your child think the consequences might be? As they’re headed to soccer, talk about the positive friendships they’ve made and the benefits they’ve experienced from being active and part of a team.

Set Expectations

Also, set expectations from the time they are young. Decide what behaviors and actions are acceptable and what are not. If children are brought up knowing the rules and your thoughts on different matters, when faced with a questionable situation, hopefully that resounds in their mind and they make the best choice. Build a relationship based on trust and honesty. If your child does break the rules, you want them to feel comfortable telling you and being honest about it. While there will be consequences, also praise them for coming forward and telling the truth. Make sure you also discuss why their action or behavior was unacceptable and how they can make better choices moving forward.

Don’t just tell children that drugs and alcohol are bad. Give them some context so that they can see for themselves and develop a better understanding of what the dangers are. Keep conversations age-appropriate, but talk about how drugs and alcohol affect the body and mind and why being drug-free is a better choice.

Keep Kids Engaged

Get your kids involved in healthy activities that will stimulate their minds and provide structured activities. Being part of team or group can enhance their self-esteem, build friendships, encourage problem solving, give them a sense of purpose, and provide something to look forward to. This can help to keep them out of situations where they may be tempted to use drugs or alcohol. It can also give them more reason to say no if offered.

Do things together as a family as well and be a positive role model. Instead of winding down after a long day of work with a beer or glass of wine, go for a family bike ride or spend time playing outside. Volunteer together so you can make a positive impact on the lives of others and help your children see the value in giving back.

Be a Positive Role Model

Be aware of your own substance use. Make sure you are taking prescriptions only as directed, and not using drinking as your go-to solution for stress. Model healthy coping strategies for your children so that they can see how you handle difficult situations and take care of your physical and mental health.

If you realize that your drinking or drug use has become problematic, seek treatment. Northbound provides a full continuum of care that meets you where you are at. Make your health and well-being a priority and show your children that recovery is possible. You can turn your life around and become a more positive role model and advocate for recovery. Northbound walks alongside you through every step of your journey empowering you with the strategies and tools you need to create meaningful change in your life. Learn how to deal with life’s ups and downs in a healthy way and how to reduce risk of relapse.

Northbound has a family program as well so that your loved ones can work through their own challenges regarding addiction. Together you can create a healthier environment, stronger relationships, and more effective communication. Help everyone to develop a better understanding of addiction and live a sustainable lifestyle of recovery with support from Northbound.

Are you ready to turn your life around and be a positive role model for addiction recovery? Contact Northbound today to get started.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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