• Fri, Feb 22 2013

Science Says You Shouldn’t Tell Your Kids About Past Drug Use

talk-to-kids-about-drugs

I look forward to having children some day more than I can say, so I am always on the lookout for things that might make parenting a little easier to navigate (though I am well aware that it’s still pretty damn hard no matter what). One of the things I have long been concerned with is how to talk to my future kids about things I may have done in the past that are not necessarily healthy, such as binge drinking and smoking. According to a new study, it would simply be best if I keep quiet about it.

A survey done by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign of 561 middle school students showed that when talking to your kids about drugs, you should probably just leave out stories of past indiscretions altogether. The study, published in the journal Human Communication Research, examined how the discussions between children and their parents regarding alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana affected those kids’ attitudes towards the substances.

Jennifer A. Kam and Ashley V. Middleton, who authored the study, saw kids whose parents talked to them about substances were more likely to have an anti-drug attitude. However, they also found that when parents told their children about past drug use — even as a warning against the negativities it could bring — those kids had less negative views of drugs and thought that substances were not a big deal.

It does not matter if you weren’t “that kind” of drug user (i.e. the sort huddled up on Intervention tying off your bicep with a belt); even if it was just casual use, it still sends kids a message. ”There could be explanations for it. Kids might be interpreting it as ‘Mom and Dad used, and they’re still here,’” said Kam.

Nevertheless, being truthful with children later on in their lives may be an option for parents who want to be completely honest at some point. Kam notes, “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.”

The study was done on white and Hispanic kids living in rural Illinois, so this is by no means the final word on the subject. Plus, when you’re in middle school, your attitude towards, well, practically everything changes as your get older. Even in high school, I was incredibly sure I would never be a heavy drinker or a smoker; less than a decade later and I love my bottomless mimosas and was a regular smoker all through college. Still, it is important for studies to be done on children’s behavior and likelihood of drug use in order to best combat abuse later in life.

Photo: Shutterstock

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  • Eileen

    I don’t know. I can see why people would feel this way, but speaking as someone whose parents smoked more than all my life, I’ve always reacted more violently to smoking than to any other vice. There has always been a part of me that is terrified one or both of my parents will die prematurely from the habit and that then I’ll never be able to forgive them. Not only have I never smoked, I avoid smokers as dates and even sometimes as friends because I don’t want to have more people in my life whom I worry about like my parents.

    Maybe present drug use is different than past, and maybe cigarettes are especially different because there is no one, anywhere who argues that they’re not bad for you, but I think in some ways knowing your parents did/do a drug makes it less interesting, less cool, and less something you want to do ever.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      This is a really good point; a LOT of my friends with parents who smoke choose to never, ever touch a cigarette, including in their adult lives. And many of my friends who have alcoholic parents are hyperaware of the signs of alcohol abuse, so I think their parents served as a warning.

      Part of the issue I have with this study is that these kids were all so young, so it could just be their ages and peer group, as well.

  • Carlo

    Interesting that you were “incredibly sure” you would never be a heavy drinker when younger but now you “love [your] bottomless mimosas.” Probably not something to brag about. Hey you can always call someone – they’re pretty easy to find – usually right at the front of the phone book…

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      Who’s bragging? I’m a writer, I choose to be honest with an audience, that’s it. Not everybody who tells the truth is proud of it.

  • m577a2

    Now that is some genius advice, LIE TO YOUR CHILDREN AND TEACH THEM THAT LYING IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE! Better yet show them YOU DON’T TRUST THEM, YOU DON’T THINK THEY ARE INTELLIGENT, and YOU ARE A CONTROLLING, JUDGMENTAL HYPOCRITE! Whatever you do, remember to teach them THE ONLY
    MEDICINE THAT WORKS IS ADDICTIVE and COMES WITH SERIOUS, DEADLY SIDE
    EFFECTS! What a disgusting attempt to propagandize American citizens and what a filthy piece of crap news source reporting it. You make me sick.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      And you make me unnerved that you’re so upset. Calm down.

  • amanda

    wow! these people are being so rude!
    i know that when i started trying different drugs/alcohol, my parents telling me they had done certain things a few times made me think that i could do them too because they couldnt get mad at me if they had done it themselves. just sayin.