Parents who talk to their kids about their own, past drug use may not be helping their kids to avoid drugs. “Talk to your kids about drugs,” has been a refrain sung to parents by anti-drug activists and in public service message for decades. But if these conversations include information about your own past drug use it could send potentially harmful mixed messages. The more parents talk about regret over their own use, the bad things that happened, and that they’d never use it again those more children feel they might have a different experience.
Kids might be interpreting it as “Mom and Dad used, and they’re still here”.
Mixed messages— including ones sent by telling children that if they are attending a party and find themselves unable to drive or are facing a drive with a drunken friend, they should call home — in general are potentially problematic. About 80% of teens have their first drink of alcohol before graduating high school— and most parents themselves were underage drinkers when they were teens. At least half of all adults with families tried marijuana and a significant proportion did much more than that.
So, what’s a parent to do?
Don’t lie, but exercise caution against volunteering the information unnecessarily. Every situation is different and there is no predicting the reaction of every child or teen to learning their parents had previous experience with substance abuse.