Mothers Have Influence; Empowering Children to Make Smart Choices with Drugs and Alcohol
Whether you are a single mother, married, or in a relationship, speaking to your kids about drugs is just as important as anything else.
There are significant dangers in 2022 with binge drinking, drugs laced with fentanyl, and easy access to any substance on the internet.
Nurturing another human being is an extraordinary task with much responsibility. Every mother wants to empower their children to make responsible choices in life. Their choices concerning drugs and alcohol can sometimes be the difference between life or death.
Here are three tips for mothers to help empower their children to make intelligent choices with drugs and alcohol.
One—Start the Conversation Early: Mothers can start speaking to their children about drugs from about the ages of three to eight, depending on the child. Most drug education and prevention resources are designed for younger children in mind.
"It has been our experience that when mothers can speak about drugs, alcohol, and staying healthy when their children are young, they are more receptive when they become older," said Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org.
When starting the conversation early, consider the following:
Use age-appropriate information—
- When children are between the ages of three and eight, you may highlight the benefits of healthy living and what occurs when unhealthy choices are made. For example, this may involve empowering them to make healthy food choices and good hygiene choices.
- Children aged eight and up generally want more independence, yet specific rules and guidelines exist. For example, the child is taught rules about drugs and alcohol and how to say no if they encounter a situation.
- As children become older, they become more observant and pay attention to their mother's actions with alcohol use, medications, etc. Let them know, for example, that alcohol is for responsible adults and that medications are only used for specific medical conditions.
The earlier you begin this conversation, the better. In addition, it should not be a one-time talk. The information should be given at different times in life and at different ages. The conversation you have with a toddler is different from the one provided to an adolescent, which is also different from the one given to a young adult.
Two—Provide Facts and Explain What Drugs Are: The facts are age appropriate. What is given to children is different from what is provided to teens and from what is given to young adults. Yet, stick to the facts. Regardless of age, however, do not make drug and alcohol use sound glamorous or fun.
In addition, try not to over exaggerate the harm as this could lead to trying to scare them or lecturing, but be realistic about the risks. The purpose is to provide factual information they can relate to and understand.
Mothers significantly influence their children's decisions surrounding drugs and alcohol, and there are excellent resources to utilize.
Resources to Consider Include:
- Kids Health offers resources for parents, kids, teens, and educators.
- The CDC provides information about teen substance use and its risks.
- Drug use statistics presented by the National Center for Drug Abuse paint a clear picture of the risks.
- The Talk They Hear You Campaign from SAMHSA also provides excellent resources.
You may not have all the answers, yet take the time to find them. Ask your child what they know about drugs or if they have questions or concerns and fill in the blanks. Providing factual information helps empower them to make smart choices.
Three—Keep Communication Flowing Both Ways: Two-way communication involves a conversation between two people. Both parties involved are transferring information between one another.
The best thing a mother could do to keep two-way communication going when talking about drugs and alcohol is to ask open-ended questions. The goal is to encourage open and honest communication without casting judgment or long lectures.
Examples of open-ended questions include:
- Tell me about your concerns with drug and alcohol use.
- Tell me what others have said about drugs or alcohol.
- What are your worries about using drugs or alcohol?
- Tell me about how drug and alcohol use may affect your life.
- (If they have experimented with drugs) Tell me a little bit about your drug and alcohol use.
Mothers have so much influence over their children that it is important not to judge or become angry at the answers. However, part of being a mother is protecting their health and well-being. Doing this effectively involves honest two-way communication.
Self-acknowledgment: Being a Mom is Tough
It is not easy to begin a conversation about drugs and alcohol because there is a fear that this could be the first and last conversation if it goes sideways.
Never forget to acknowledge that you have a strong influence. Consider everything you have accomplished as a mother up to this point. Being a mom is tough, and this is a tough conversation.
Yet, stay focused on their well-being, speak from a place of love and understanding, provide current facts, personal stories, and experiences, try not to lecture or cast judgment, and trust your instincts. Finally, do not avoid the conversation and start it early whenever possible—empower them at an early age to make smart choices.
Jody Boulay is a mother of two with a passion for helping others. She currently works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org to help spread awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.