Key to getting kids from drug addiction: Talk early; talk often

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – When it comes to drugs and kids, take a direct approach.

“One of the most important deterrents to drinking and substance abuse is parents giving a very clear message that it is not acceptable under any circumstance,” says Patricia Rehmer who heads up the Behavioral Health Network at Hartford HealthCare.

But she admits that only works for some adolescents.

Rehmer says, “If you can keep your child from using any sort of substance including nicotine until they are 18, even if there’s genetic loading in the family- 90% chance that your child will have less of a chance of ever becoming addicted later in life.”

Surprisingly, kids crave structure.

“They just don’t feel their parents don’t discipline them believe it or not,” that’s what Andy Buccaro with Project Courage — hears from those he counsels. Along with, “That they just don’t do enough-that they don’t set limits-that when they do they don’t stick by them,” said Rehmer.

Do stick with the consequences. The conversations, they say, should start early even before middle school.

“There’s very few people who don’t have addiction in their family and we know there’s some genetic loading with addiction so pointing out to them that they are more at risk because of that – I think is important,” says Rehmer.

Make it routine. Different topics. Different times.

Rehmer recommends, “Have a conversation about you don’t understand that when you’re binge drinking, if you are a small you know slight girl you’re chances of really getting into trouble pretty quickly are high.”

Pam Mautte — the Director of the Prevention Program at BHcare — talks to elementary school students at a level they can understand.

She explains, “Things like what’s the difference between candy and medications at an elementary age and making sure they only take medications from their parents.”

Ask questions about their friends — and their friends parents.

Mautte says, “Parents who are very engaged in their student’s life or child’s life and asks these questions ongoing and these conversations-those students tend to not engage in risky behavior and substance abuse as much.”

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