The average age kids begin experimenting with drugs is 13 -- typically hiding the abuse for two years before a parent discovers it, according to Debbie Moak, founder of notMYkid.
Substances are more commonly being used, and abused, by younger teens, said Moak to an audience of about 40 parents at Rancho Milpitas Middle School Thursday evening.
The school brought in the 12-year old national nonprofit organization, based in Phoenix, for the first time this year to educate students and their families about substance abuse, and what steps can be taken to prevent it, said school counselor Jenn Hutchison.
In the morning, a peer educator -- who himself battled with and overcame drug use at a young age -- spoke to the school’s 720 students in groups.
At 6 p.m. Moak, whose son began battling with drugs at the age of 13, advised the parents on what steps they could take to talk to their kids about, and prevent, substance abuse.
Know the obstacles in your children’s lives: Only seven percent of parents think that their middle schoolers would use drugs to cope with stress, said Moak. But when the kids were asked to make the same prediction, the statistic soared to 73 percent.
Be Aware: It’s easy for kids to conceal drug use, especially with realistic containers sold online and at smoke shops that mimic the appearance of soda bottles or make-up containers. Drugs are also not limited to illegal substances, but perfectly legal ones such as pharmaceutical drugs that kids will use to get high, said Moak.
Start a conversation: Simply telling kids, “Don’t do it because I said so,” isn’t going to work, said Moak. That’s why it’s important to ask non-accusatory and open-ended questions when approaching children about drug use, she said. For example, parents can ask, “How often do you hear people talking about drugs at school?” she said. Then listen more than speaking, without overreacting about what they say.
Having the space for these conversations is important. That’s why Moak urged families to have dinner together five days a week, no matter how busy their schedules.
Be on the same page as your partner: Moak advised couples to share the same game plan -- whatever it may be -- for talking to their children about drug use.
Give kids an easy out of peer pressure: At the end of her talk, Moak handed out drug tests to parents, recommending that they do random checks on their children. Yet the technique is not only for parents’ ease of mind, she said. If teens know their parents do these tests, they can have an easy explanation to give their peers of why they can’t partake in drug use.
Be open about your own experiences: When parents speak to their children about drugs, it’s only natural that they will inquire if Mom and Dad partook in them at some point. While it’s tempting to avoid the discussion, Moak urged parents to be open and honest -- but not too much.
“There are parents who will tell their children they did Ecstasy, swam naked, and then say ‘That was the best night of my life!’" said Moak. “You don’t have to tell them the whole truth. But talk about the consequences and how it worked out for people you know.”