Thinking of talking to your kids about drugs and drinking? You might want to leave out your own experiences with drugs and alcohol.
A new study from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign has found that when parents share their own drug and alcohol use stories with their children, the kids are less likely to see drugs as bad. Parents who simply emphasised an anti-drug message were more likely to have children who avoided drugs.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, The study’s lead author, Jennifer Kam said, "We are not recommending that parents lie to their early adolescent children about their own past drug use. Instead, we are suggesting that parents should focus on talking to their kids about the negative consequences of drug use, how to avoid offers, family rules against use, that they disapprove of use, and others who have gotten in trouble from using.”
Kam and her colleagues found that when parents shared information about their own drug use, even if they only shared stories with negative consequences or regret, children were more likely to see drugs as acceptable.
"We suspect that even though parents may convey anti-substance use messages by emphasizing the regret and negative consequences associated with their decision to use, they still have to reveal that they used substances at some point in their lives. Knowing that their parents tried substances may actually normalize this behaviour for youth and make it seem okay, thereby making youth think their parents wouldn't really disapprove of them using substances and thinking that more kids around them use,” Kam said.
The study, which included surveys from 561 middle school children is only a preliminary piece of research. Other studies have shown that, while talking about your drug use with a child may not always work, it helps build credibility and could build trust with the child.
"Parents may not want to voluntarily share their past drug use with their early adolescent children, but we are not suggesting that they outright lie to their kids," Kam said, adding that more research needs to be done.