We’re all aware of the dangers of drinking and drugs, but sometimes we find it so difficult to talk to our kids about it. However, parents are essential helping prevent addiction. We all need skills to educate our kids about the dangers involved.
This can get tricky. Many times our conversations with our children end up in anger. Kids can really push our buttons. Why? Because they need to test their independence, and they need to push us away in order to do that. In a normal bid to grow to be healthy adults, children, and even more so teens, need to reject what parents say so that they can define and refine their sense of self. Their egos are fragile and they are overly sensitive as they navigate this tough time in their life.
Parents need to walk a fine line when talking to kids about drugs and drinking. We want to avoid talking down to our kids. We need to talk to our children in a way that shows we respect them while keeping their self-esteem intact. Above all, we want them to believe that they have the ability to make good decisions.
Every human being has a basic need to feel respected. This includes teens and children. So many times we dismiss what our children are saying. It’s better if we hear them out, even if what they’re saying seems immature and foolish. When we want to give over our values and opinions we want to deliver the message in a kind and diplomatic way. We do not want to demean our children in the course of the discussion.
How can we do this? One simple technique is to use “I” messages when trying to impart our values and knowledge to our children.
It is difficult for parents to watch their teens grow up, make their own decisions (sometimes not very smart decisions), and struggle for their independence. Often time we lecture and use accusatory language when trying to teach our kids about life’s dangers.
Parents will say:
“You better not do anything stupid when it comes to drinking! You need to pick a better group of friends!”
This is the perfect time to use an “I” message:
“I’m worried when I read about kids drinking themselves sick.”
“I get upset when kids use drinking to feel cool. I wish they could find other things to do that would help them feel good about themselves.”
“It sounds to me as if some kids are making bad decisions about drinking and drugs…”
“I bet it’s hard for kids to see their friends drinking. I bet there are a lot of kids who don’t know what to do in those situations.”
A child might say something that goes against our values, rules, or our better judgment, like, “Everyone drinks. It’s not a big deal. You just never let me have any fun!”
We want to agree to disagree, validate their feelings and then use “I” messages:
“Everyone around you is drinking and they seem like they can handle it. It seems as if it is not a big deal to you. I’m glad you shared your thoughts and feelings about drinking. At the same time, I am concerned, because in my experience, drinking can lead you to places you don’t really want to go.”
It is better to be silent after this and not to get into further arguments. Let your words sink in. And then leave the door open for further discussion: “I’m always happy to listen.”
In this way, our true message, “drinking can lead you to bad places” is couched by respectful language, so that our children can truly hear it. It is a better, kinder way to help our children understand our values and rules. Leaving the door open for further discussion shows them we are not just lecturing, we truly care about what is good for them.
Using “I” messages, lets our kids know our opinion on these very important matters of drinking and drugs, while still respecting them and their feelings.
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