10 Tips for Talking to Your Children about Opioids
Dec 21, 2020
Based on 2018 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 128 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The abuse of and addiction to opioid-based prescription drugs (most often, pain relievers) has skyrocketed in recent years and it’s imperative for parents to educate their children about the dangers of this serious national crisis. The Ohio Opioid Education Alliance has ten tips for talking to your kids about prescription opioids.
Start talking when they are young. As soon as your children understand what medications are, they can begin learning about safely using medications and the dangers of misuse.
Build a relationship with your children. Show that you care about their health and well-being. Great communication will help your kids feel safe coming to you when they need help with a serious issue.
Plan multiple conversations. It’s not about “The Talk;” it’s about many conversations (about many things) as they grow up. While it’s not always easy, planning to have many short, frequent discussions about the dangers of opioid misuse and abuse is the best strategy.
Choose informal times to talk. Chatting with your teen while driving to or from school and extracurricular activities, cleaning up after dinner, or while on a walk are all good times. They will feel more at ease during the conversation if there is less eye contact.
Resist the urge to lecture. Consider starting a conversation with asking what they know about opioids. Making them feel like their point of view is valued can result in their being more willing to engage.
Use active listening. By reflecting back what you hear them saying (“It seems like you are feeling…), your children will know that you understand them.
Be empathetic and supportive. Remember that the human brain isn’t fully developed until age 25: children don’t communicate the same way adults do. Let your kids know you understand and remind them that they can always count on you for support and guidance.
Make an exit plan. Help your children create a plan for what they would do if someone offered them prescription pain relievers that are not theirs. Texting a code word to a family member or any other strategy that everyone understands and agrees upon can help them get out of a sticky situation.
Be prepared to discuss any family history of substance abuse. Substance use disorders are often genetic and exposure to substance use in the home is a major risk factor. That’s why honest conversations about unhealthy substance use, addiction, and family risk factors can help give your children the foundation they need to make the decision not to use addictive substances.
Teach that prescriptions can be harmful if not used properly. Remind your children that it is unsafe and illegal to take someone else’s prescription medication, even if it belongs to a friend or relative.
Sharon Wrona, DNP, PNP, PMHS. AP-PMN is Administrative Director of the Comprehensive Pain and Palliative Care Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She has been working at Nationwide Children's Hospital for over 28 years.
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