It is always a fine balance when talking to a child about such a sensitive and potentially scary issue as opioid addiction.
You obviously have to take an age-appropriate approach, first and foremost. At the same time, you also want to ensure that children are aware of the potential dangers and understand the severe risks attached to opioid addiction.
Talking to children about drugs is always going to be a challenge. Elaborating on the subject and talking about things like opioid withdrawal risks creates an added complication to how you structure your conversation and approach.
Here are some suggestions on how to talk to children about opioid addiction.
Start a conversation at the earliest opportunity
As soon as you know that a child is emotionally prepared and has a basic understanding of what medications are and what they are used for, that is a good point in their development to start a conversation with them.
Once they understand about these medications you can then build on that foundation by introducing learning about how to safely use these medications. It is also the right opportunity to talk about the dangers of misuse in a way that is appropriate to their age.
Deliver the message from a position of trust
Once you have developed a position of trust with a child and they know that you have their welfare and well-being covered this creates an excellent platform for delivering your message.
Creating this bond of trust not only means that they are more likely to take your message on board more effectively, but it also makes it more likely they will confide in you when they feel they need help about a serious issue.
An informal approach often works best
A formal discussion often feels more intimidating, especially where children are concerned.
A much better approach is often to choose an informal opportunity to broach the subject. When you are driving in the car and chatting, would be a great example of a relaxed setting where a serious conversation can be achieved with a greater degree of informality.
Drive home the dangers without lecturing a child
Starting a conversation about the dangers of opioids requires a tactful and sensitive approach where you resist the urge to lecture, despite the seriousness of the topic.
A good way of getting the conversion flowing would be to ask the child to say what they know about opioids. That gives you the chance to fill in the gaps in a more engaging and collaborative way.
Offer them an exit plan to fall back on
In just the same way that it is wise to make your child aware of a safe exit strategy when they are in danger and need to evacuate their surroundings, it is also a good tactic to discuss what they should do if offered drugs.
It could be that you suggest they text a code word that you recognize as a call for help. Whatever exit plan you have, it will give your child confidence when they know what to do in a potentially dangerous situation.
These suggestions should make it easier to talk to a child about opioid addiction and make them aware of the dangers in a suitable and reassuring way.