Friday is 420, dad. Do you know what that means? Do your kids?
If you haven’t heard that, 420 is code for smoking marijuana … and now it has become an unofficial holiday (April 20). One of the dads on our staff, who just learned about “420” this week, was surprised when he went home and asked his two sons, ages 14 and 16, if they know what it means. Both of them do (from their classmates).
So, for us, 4/20 (also falling in the middle of National Alcohol Awareness Month) is a great time to remind dads about the urgency of talking with their kids about drugs. Does it surprise you that the average age when someone first tries drugs or alcohol is 13? Dads, we can’t fall behind here.
To help you, here are some practical action points, mostly from notMYkid.org.
Seize the moment. Take advantage of opportunities to start a conversation with your kids. Maybe your child will share a story involving someone at school who was caught with drugs, or a celebrity or athlete may be in the news because of a drug problem. Use those teachable moments to talk honestly and openly.
Recognize the Appeal. Fitting in and being adventurous are essential needs of maturing youth. Kids tend to over-estimate the “rewards” of certain behaviors. Talk with your child about the long term realities and consequences of drug use. Don’t hesitate to use examples of real world tragedies.
Know your child. Be very familiar with what’s “normal” for him, so you’ll notice quickly when there’s a change in his behavior or some physical sign of drug use.
Listen more than you speak. Seek to understand first, without overreacting when they open up to you. You may be surprised to find out how much your child already knows or how mature his thinking is already.
Share some of your own experiences—someone you knew growing up who got involved with drugs, and the negative consequences you saw in his or her life.
Use a home drug test kit. I’ve never tried this suggestion from notMYkid.org, but it’s worth considering. It might sound extreme, but it’s actually similar to checking to make sure your daughter is meeting her curfew or maintaining good grades. You’re simply verifying her good behavior. Also, regular testing will give your child an easy “out” in a tricky peer pressure situation: “I can’t. My dad tests me for drugs and I’ll get caught.”
Get more tips, warning signs and conversation starters in this document: Not My Child on 420.
Have you talked with your kids about drugs? Are you hesitant to bring it up? Please share your ideas and comments below or at our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.