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When Should I Talk to My Kids About Drugs?

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It’s no surprise that those who develop substance use disorders during adulthood, began experimenting with drugs or drinking alcohol while they were adolescents. With the age of first use getter younger and younger, when is a good time to begin discussing drug and alcohol use with your children? 

For many, the answer is as soon as possible. This can be seen in a recent segment of the long-running children’s puppet show Sesame Street. A puppet character named Karli and a human friend named Salia both disclose that their parents use drugs and that addiction is a sickness, one that, “makes a person feel like they need to take drugs or drink alcohol to feel okay.”  

The discussion, while not especially detailed, takes a different approach to substance use education. The message of the Sesame Street segment is does not hinge on the scared-straight tactics employed by programs like D.A.R.E. in the 90s and 00s. The segment on Sesame stresses to children who have parents who are addicts, that they are not alone and that it is okay to “talk about your feelings.” 

Talk to Your Kids

While the Sesame Street segment is about coping with a family member with substance use disorder, addiction experts believe that having conversations with children about drug and alcohol use at an early age could work as a preventative measure.  

Midwest Recovery Center CEO, and Team Recovery President and Co-Founder Matt Bell says the Sesame Street segment is a cultural step in the right direction.  

“I think utilizing any platform to reach individuals is wonderful,” he said. “As a society, we need to stop being so reactive to this crisis and start becoming more proactive with prevention and educational efforts. As the epidemic changes and becomes more complex, we should also be adapting with our prevention and treatment efforts.” 

Part of Team Recovery’s educational efforts include a seminar called “Choices and Consequences,” which over the course of four years has been presented to nearly 150,000 students from 1st grade to college. 

Drug and Alcohol Use Can Start Early

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at age 12, ten percent of children say they’ve drank alcohol, but that number shoots to 50 percent by age 15. Their recommendation is to have direct, open and honest conversations with children as at an early age to set expectations and create a strong healthy relationship between you and your child. By decreasing isolation, a child has a better chance of not developing a substance use disorder.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, seeking help is the easiest route to recovery.  

Addiction impacts the entire family, and at Amatus Recovery Centers across the country, we are dedicated to including loved ones as part of the recovery process through therapy and education around healthy boundaries and support. To learn about our addiction treatment services and which level of care is the right one for you, contact an admissions specialist at 833- 216-3079. 

Amatus Recovery Centers, a division of Amatus Health, offers treatment for drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders in facilities across the country. To learn more visit amatusrecoverycenters.com.