With the beginning of the school year, I have heard many parents say such things as: “I can’t believe she’s starting Kindergarten….5th grade, already?….How is he already in 7th grade?…A Senior in High School, this is our last year with him! Where has the time gone?” At each stage of life, there are different topics of interest and a greater likelihood that your minor will hear new information from a peer, rather than an adult. And sometimes, students “learn” about different topics before parents are ready to introduce those headliners in conversations.
It is up to each family to decide at what age their child is ready to receive information. But make sure you are in tune with your child and what is happening in their world; not your own hesitance or insecurities. Just like schooling, extra curricular activities, and consequences; what works for one minor, does not necessarily apply to another; even in the same family. Be sure to individualize your topics of discussion. And above all, be HONEST! You have a small window of time to communicate compared to the chatter with peers, other organizations, and different media outlets (TV, Internet, Social Media, reading materials, etc.). Make your time count. Let your youth know that they can come to you and have a discussion about anything.
Topics of Concern (some depending on age group) in no particular order of importance:
Texting and driving
Over the Counter Drugs
For example, if you have an Elementary age student that is participating in the DARE to say no to Drugs program in the state of Florida, and they ask you what drugs are you can first inquire what they have been told from the school system. The younger they are, the less specific you need to be about the name of a drug, but you can generally explain that sometimes people choose to put unhealthy things in their bodies, and give brief description of what can happen.
If you have a youth in Middle School, you may want to begin encouraging them to be aware if someone is asking them to participate in something that they are not familiar or comfortable with and to know what to do to if they are offered a substance at school, a friends home, or elsewhere. NEVER take medicine prescribed for someone else, ever!
In High School, there will be examples of hollywood stars, and maybe someone in the community or family that you all can have an open conversation about in which the outcome of drug use was made public. Ask if they’ve heard about it, and what they think about it. Attempt to keep emotion out of the conversation, and to provide facts. Ask lots of questions! Listen Much! Listen with your ears and your eyes…the non-verbal cues are sometimes more telling than the words being spoken. This is a great time to ask if they have ever seen any drugs and what they did, or prepare them that if they haven’t, it is a possibility that they may. Let them know the honest short and long term side effects to the drugs. Parents/Guardians: you need to educate yourself on what is “popular” at that time and in your area.
Here is a link on Psychology Today about steps to take when talking about Alcohol:
As with any healthy relationship, keep communication open and flowing. The more honest you are with your child, the more they will trust you and seek guidance/information from you. They want the resource to be reliable, so do your homework. It may be uncomfortable for a few minutes, but likely, more so for your child. Do not be afraid that you will “plant” things in their head…other people are planting seeds in them all of the time. You need to make sure that you are harvesting sturdy and resilient seeds and taking care to provide the proper nurturing and pruning for healthy growth.