My family celebrates the holidays together at my parents house in Arizona. Rarely am I able to attend, living in Texas and working full time. This past Christmas I was able to return home and enjoy the festivities with my family. Walking through my childhood home I reminisced on my younger years. Happy family photos covered the walls in my parents house. Anyone looking at these old photos could tell our family was happy, but no one could tell that the little boy in those photos would grow up to become a junkie who would be forced to wander the streets night after night in search for drugs that he thought he so desperately needed to survive. My parents had no idea what was going to happen to their son. Encouraged to perform well in school, my parents were good role models for my siblings and myself growing up. I was involved in the Boy Scouts and even earn the highest rank Eagle Scout. Sports filled my time after school, it seemed like the picture perfect childhood and my parents had no idea that their son’s future was going to involve an addiction to heroin. There is no question about it, if you have a child in high school, your child will be exposed to drugs directly or indirectly. That’s a given, Drug War Facts released an article stating that, between the ages of 12 to 17, 47.8% of teens reported that It would be fairly easy or very easy for them to obtain marijuana if they wanted some. 1 out of 10 teens indicted that heroin would be easily obtainable, and 1 in 9 reported that LSD and cocaine would be easy to get. Many parents have no problem having The Sex Talk with their children, but when should they talk about drugs. An excerpt from an article shows that “Teen users are at significantly higher risk of developing an addictive disorder compared to adults, and the earlier they began using, the higher their risk. Nine out of 10 people who meet the clinical criteria for substance use disorders involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before they turned 18. People who begin using any addictive substance before age 15 are six and a half times as likely to develop a substance use disorder as those who delay use until age 21 or older (28.1 percent vs. 4.3 percent). With the recent opioid epidemic and heroin epidemic in America it seems that having the “drug talk” with your children is becoming mandatory, but you cannot have the drug talk unless you yourself are informed and educated. If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, chances are that you might have experienced or know someone who experienced drugs. I understand that you may want to keep this part of your history a secret from your kids, but you can also use it to get through to them.Getting “real” with your kids about what is really going on, and letting them know you’re not oblivious to drug use. The drugs that were around in the 60s and 70s are still here today unfortunately, but even newer drugs such as bath salts, saliva, spice and kratom are in head shops located on street corners next to high schools in every major city in America. Which means parents need to be educated on speaking wit their children about drugs. But where do you go to get educated? If you’re reading this article, this is a good start As a parent is it up to you to determine what’s best for your children throughout their growth. Some parents will never speak to their children about drugs, some will instill anit-drug messages from the moment they’re born. Kids that receive “the talk “usually have strict house rules and are less likely to experiment with drugs and develop a habit. Some experts suggest that having this talk with them at the ages of 8-10 is a good time to start. This may seem early, and you can certainly wait it out longer if you want to. Keep in mind that 62% of teens who admit to drinking had their first full drink by the age of 15, and that kids as young as 11 are statistically likely to encounter others who drink or do drugs. Equipping them with the necessary tools to identify alcohol related or drug related situations can help them make smart decisions. What Do Your Kids Already Know? It is possible that you may be amazed about what your child already knows about drugs and alcohol. The sponge like minds of children will absorb information from the internet, movies, TV and friends. Before starting off the conversation, ask them what they already know about drugs and alcohol. You can ask them if they have seen substances before, or if they have ever been offered them. Allowing them to ask questions opens the conversations to be two ways, preventing it from being a lecture. Communicate the Risks A lot of teens use drugs and alcohol because of the fun side of the substances. Informing your child about the risks of using drugs and alcohol could and may prevent them from trying them out on their own. Using alcohol or drugs irresponsibly can send them to the hospital, get them kicked out of school or land them in jail. Even a one-time use can turn them into an addict, or potentially end their life. There’s a fine line when communicating the risks, between painting an honest portrait and coming off as extreme. The facts speak for themselves. Deliver the message with a calm yet firm tone: substance use is a dangerous thing. If they aren’t careful, it can destroy their life. Warn About Peer Pressure Many first time users use because it is what their peers are engaging in. Peer pressure doesn’t always seem like pressure; it can be a casual suggestion to use. Your children might find themselves in a situation after school which they’re presented with the drug from one of their friends, trusting their friendship they might engage in this drug using. Peer pressure comes in all shapes and sizes. Help them identify common peer pressure situations, such as parties, and how to respectfully decline an offer from someone they know. Teenagers especially may be worried that saying “no” in certain situations can make them appear “lame,” and that their social standing is at risk. Make sure they know this is far from true, and that people who think for themselves and stand their ground demand respect from their peers. Set Clear Expectations Ensure that your children know your views on drugs and alcohol especially while living under your roof. Establish healthy boundaries and rules about substance use. Being upfront with this will not make your children love you any less or resent you. On the contrary — children in these situations feel more cared for and looked after, and are more likely to want to make their parents proud. Ending on a Positive Note. The message you’re bringing them may make you seem like a dictator, trying to scare your kids straight. You’re their parent, and want them to live long and happy successful lives. Your tone and body language should put them at ease, showing them you’re on their side. Let them know they can come to you any time they have a problem. Encourage them to be themselves. Parents may dodge the drug talk out of fear it will somehow damage the relationship. But when done properly, talks like these should only bring families closer together. More likely than not, you’ll want to revisit these topics as your children grow into teens and progress through school. With each year that passes, the temptation to experiment often grows and grows, along with the availability and variety of harmful substances. They’ll make new friends, see new places, and gain new responsibilities — somewhere along the way, your advice to them may slip through the cracks. Maintain an active, constantly-evolving relationship with your children. Continue to educate them on what they’ll encounter, what to avoid and how to handle various scenarios. The older and wiser they get, the more comfortable you’ll become with sharing personal experiences and bits of wisdom to help them succeed. They’ll also have more to lose should substances enter their life. If you see an opportunity to talk with your kids about drugs or alcohol, don’t let it pass you by.