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Let Me Float the Idea…

I find myself saying this in tricky situations at work and at home. What I’m really thinking is, “I’m not sure certain how this (idea, message, directive, request) will be received, so I’ll be cautious and handle it delicately.” These moments often make me anxious and uncomfortable.

Uncertain. Anxious. Uncomfortable. Isn’t this how parents and caregivers often feel about talking to their children about alcohol and drugs? Parents may dread “the talk” because they don’t know how to talk to them, when to talk to them, how long to talk to them, or whether talking about alcohol and drugs will actually pique their children’s curiosity.

Parents: Why not “float the idea”? What if instead of sitting your child down for a serious, face-to-face, all-at-once, in-depth “talk” laying out expectations about their alcohol and drug use — What if you “float the idea” that you are interested to learn what they know and how they feel about alcohol and other drugs? What if you “float the idea” that you are opposed to any alcohol or drug use in your home? What if you “float the idea” that they will face consequences for their use? What if you “float the idea” that you, the parent, could be in legal trouble if you enable their use in any way?

How can you “float” these ideas? Take advantage of what teachers call “teachable moments.” For example, next time you’re in the car with your child listening to the latest suggestive Miley Cyrus song, ask what she or he thinks of the song’s blatant references to alcohol and drugs. Next time you’re car-pooling your child’s swim team to its meet, listen to the conversation and jump in when alcohol and drugs come up (and they will). Next time you come across an article about the consequences of using alcohol and drugs, share it with your child and use the opportunity to discuss the real meaning of those consequences. Next time you watch a movie in which teens consume alcohol and drugs, point out how the film is exaggerating and glorifying underage use.

Talking to your children about alcohol and drugs can be tricky and anxiety-inducing. But it doesn’t have to be. If you “float the idea” consistently over time, always emphasizing that you oppose their use because you care about your child’s health and well-being, your message just will be well-received and reinforced.

But, hey, I’m just floating the idea…

Nichole Dawsey is the Director of Prevention Services at NCADA – St. Louis.

Categories: Commentary

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