I know that this is going to sound insane, given that our children are 3 and 6 years old, but we recently talked to them about drugs.
A friend's son had just died of a drug overdose and after the wake, walking to our car, my husband, in an abrupt departure from his usual happy and laid-back self, suddenly grabbed me and said "That was awful. No parent should ever have to go through that. I don't want this to ever happen to our family." Seeing the destroyed parents is something we will never forget.
It wasn't the first wake we attended for a young person who had died of a drug overdose. But it was the first time we had attended as parents ourselves.
Certain people around me say that we are fighting a losing battle. That whether or not our kids do drugs is out of our control. They say that having an addictive personality is something you're either born with, or not. They say that certain drugs are so powerful that there is nothing we can do to stop them. And that drugs are everywhere.
So maybe the odds are stacked against us. But I'm going down swinging. I want to know that at least I did everything that I could do to keep my kids off drugs. So after discussing our options after a rather stilted lunch of Korean tacos, we decided to talk to our very young kids about the evils of drugs.
Talking to our 3 year old was pretty easy. While she likely didn't understand the concept, we figured it's never too early to impart the message. This is a summation of our conversation.
Us: Drugs are bad and you should never do them.
Her: What's drugs?
Us: Something bad. That you should never do.
Her: Like Pez?
Us: Yes. But they don't taste sweet, like Pez.
Her: What do drugs taste like?
Us: Uh...like dirt...and poop. They taste awful.
Her: Will someone go in timeout, if they do drugs?
Us: Yes, forever. Because rugs are bad.
Her: Will I cry?
Us: Yes. And we will cry. If you do drugs. Drugs are bad.
Her: Okay. I won't do drugs. pause Can we play a game where I chase you around with this spoon?
I always say that we need to give our children SOMETHING to talk about in therapy one day. Talking to our toddler about drugs is a good start.
The conversation with our 6 year old was a little more effective, I thought.
We opened by telling him about the wake we attended that day and how the young man had died due to drugs.
Him: Was he a kid?
Us: No. But he was a very young adult. And he was (Name withheld)'s child. And they are so sad now.
Him: How old was he?
Him: Was he married?
Us: No, he didn't get a chance.
Him: That's really sad.
Us: It is.
Him: Was he like, bad?
Us: No. He was good and sweet but the drugs were too powerful. Once he started, he couldn't stop.
Him: I won't do drugs.
Us: You shouldn't. They could kill you. And then you won't get to live a long, happy life.
Him: I want to be happy.
Us: Good! Because we want you to be happy.
Him: I'll only drink beer one day.
Me: WHOA! Where are you getting this from?
Him: I'm going to drink a can when I'm an adult. With a straw.
Him: Don't worry, I won't drink and drive.
Us: Err...that's good. But moving on. When you grow up, you might be at a party where there's drugs. And if that's the case, we want you to call us and have us pick you up.
Him: mildly panicked WHY would you send me to a party where there's drugs?!
Us: If we didn't KNOW there would be drugs there.
Him: hyperventilating now How did you not know? You should check before sending me!
Us: If for some reason, there are drugs at a party--
Him: DefCon 5 I don't want to go to a party where there's drugs! I'm afraid I'm going to do them, accidentally! I just want to stay home!
Us: You know what? You and all your friends are all just going to hang out here during high school. This is going to be the hang-out house, okay? So we're all sure there's no drugs.
Him: Visible relieved If this is the hang-out house, can we get a ping-pong table?
Us: Uhhh...sure. When the time comes.
Him: Can some of my friends sleepover?
Us: Whatever, sure.
Him: YES! Okay, I will NOT do drugs. But sometimes I want to go to my friends' houses. Where there are no drugs.
I know it seems like we promised him a ping pong table in exchange for drug abstinence. And I know that perhaps all of this is way over their heads. But I want to begin the dialogue now. I want to drill it into their heads that drugs are bad and dangerous, and can easily ruin the lives of many good people. I want to let our children know that if doing drugs is cool, I will make them wear mandatory pocket protectors. I want them to know that I would rather them be the total square that calls their over-protective parents to pick them up and be alive rather than the daring rebel who's willing to try any drug and eventually be dead. I want them to understand that friends of theirs, desperate for an escape (from whatever) or merely looking to have some fun, may try heavy drugs and, unable to get off of them, may pay dearly, perhaps even with their young lives.
We want our kids to stay active, interested and passionate about things. We want to know who their friends are and who their friends' parents are also. We want everyone poking fun at us because we spoke to our children about drugs at such a young age.
We don't care.
Because the price is too high, the suffering too great to lose yet another child to such a preventable tragedy. So talk to your children about not doing drugs they way you talk to them about not running into the street. Both can kill you.