Here’s something parents wouldn’t expect.
When it comes to smoking, drinking alcohol and trying marijuana — the most commonly used substances in early adolescence — kids look to Mom and Dad.
One take on the research is that parents should be honest about their own history with drug use.
A 2017 study led by Jonathan Pettigrew, researcher and Arizona State University assistant professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, found parents have serious cred when it comes to influencing kids’ choices on whether to do drugs.
“The cultural stereotype of a rebellious teen is a bit overblown,” Pettigrew said. “Sure, it happens but not for everybody, and not the majority.”
The study looked at 3,000 students in Grades 7 and 8 from 39 schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Talk to your parents, kids!
Among the key findings:
- 90 percent of all the kids had some sort of discussion with their parents about drug use.
- Those who hadn’t talked to their parents were more likely to report that they had tried illegal substances.
One surprising aspect of the research came from students’ written responses about the negative aspects of drug use.
“Things like, ‘this is what substances can do to you. It can hurt you or your family, or remember what happened to uncle Bill and he died from cirrhosis of the liver,’ ” Pettigrew said.
When to talk to your kids
The ideal time to talk to your children about illegal substance use is when they are in seventh and eighth grade, he added. At that age, kids are already picking up messages about drug use.
“Children are starting to develop more peer relationships at that time. But just just because your kid is a teenager doesn’t mean they’re not going to listen to you anymore,” Pettigrew said.
Study findings show that direct talk about drug use — rather than reacting when a child comes home drunk and messages such as “don’t do drugs” — are effective. So, too, are sharing the consequences of doing drugs with stories, personal or otherwise.
When your kid asks if you smoked weed
So should you tell your child that you smoked weed?
“What parents say, especially with showing an increase around the acceptable use of marijuana, it’s an important question,” Pettigrew said. “So I guess my thought that draws from the research is that parents should be as honest as they can. They should engage with the question rather than sidestep it.”
Pettigrew said parents can discuss the time they used drugs and stress that when kids are still developing, drugs can do biological harm.
“I think being honest with the kid is important about the choices that were made and the reasons they were made, and then (parents) need to communicate the expectations they have now and the rules and values they have with the kids.”