Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t someone most children are familiar with. But a lot of kids, tweens and teens heard about him this week when they saw his face in newspapers and on television after he died from a heroin overdose. If you haven’t talked to your kids about substance abuse, this is a good time to start.
How soon should you start talking to your kids about drugs? Now, says Lee Beers, a pediatrician with Children’s National Medical Center. “Even the younger kids will notice and ask questions,” she said. “If questions do come up, don’t be afraid… It’s much better to have small, frequent conversations along the way so when you get into more complex conversations, you’ve laid the groundwork.”
For the younger set, Beers said, you can keep it simple and say something like, “There are things like medicine that aren’t really medicine,” With tweens and teens, a deeper conversation can be had. “It’s important to be honest about drugs and what they can do to your body,” she said. “And say that both young people and adults can make bad decisions.”
It’s important to be calm and reasonable when your child asks questions or mentions something like Hoffman’s overdose or Justin Bieber’s latest substance-abuse antics. If you get worked up, they will be less willing to come to you next time. “You want to make sure the door is open for future conversations,” Beers said. “You have to be clear that it’s not something you condone and there are good reasons for that, but make sure you are there to work with your child.”