The debate: Would you tell your kids you’ve done drugs?

Sooner or later, the topic of drugs will come up with your kids. How open would you be? These two parents sound off on this hot topic.

Debate-Drugs-Nov-2014

“Yes, I would tell my kids that I’ve done drugs.”

By Evan Williams*, father of two

When I was little, I lived in a small town just outside of Ottawa. There was a sweet innocence to the place; our long games of hide-and-seek had the whole town as the boundary, we would catch frogs by the creek and hold endless hockey matches on frozen ponds. But we also had an urgency to lose that innocence—some kids had started sneaking their parents’ cigarettes and beer down to the creek, and we were all fascinated by the idea of drugs.

Read more: Talking to your kids about drugs>

I was nine years old the afternoon I wandered away from my mom at the fall fair to hang out with friends. Someone pulled out a joint. It worked its way around the circle, and when it got to me, I took a few hauls. The high hit me hard and fast. I suddenly felt paranoid and freaked out. Everyone was laughing at me, and all I wanted was my mom, so I sent the friend I trusted most to get her. She came and didn’t say much, but took me home and made me feel safe. Then she grounded me for a whole month, which I was secretly relieved by—I saw it as a good break from the fear and uncertainty of exploration. Despite being mercilessly teased and pressured by my friends, I was terrified enough to not try anything again until I was 14.

Read more: Parenting in the teen years>

Once they’re a bit older, I fully intend to talk to my son and daughter, now seven and eight years old, about my experiences with drugs, and I’ll definitely tell them the fall fair story. Kids get enough of the glorified drugs-are-awesome side from their peers; I want them to know the other side. Not the “You’ll smoke a joint and end up a heroin addict” cautionary tale, but the real risks: You’ll smoke a joint and get completely freaked and cry for your mommy. I won’t be one of those relaxed “here, smoke our weed” dads, but I want my kids to know they can tell me anything without fear of judgment or anger. The thought of them being scared somewhere, either because they did too much of something or their friends thought they did too little, breaks my heart. I want to always be able to do what my mother did for me that day after the fair: make them feel safe again.

* Name has been changed

“No, I would not tell my kids that I’ve done drugs.”

By Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, mother of two

I’m pretty square when it comes to drug use—other than a few pot brownies and an incident with a vaporizer that put me straight to sleep, my experience with intoxication has been limited to alcohol. Still, there are plenty of people in my kids’ lives who have done illegal drugs and lived to tell the tale. But they’re definitely not stories I’ll be sharing with my nine-year-old daughter, Ruby, or her six-year-old brother, Henry.

Read more: Daddy on drugs>

My reluctance to do drugs can be directly traced back to book No. 40 in the Sweet Valley High series, in which the beautiful Regina Morrow dies of a sudden heart attack after trying cocaine just once. While I knew it was just a silly young adult melodrama, that book instilled a sense of fear that kept me on the straight and narrow—and I’m thankful for it. As parents, most of us teach our children that drugs are dangerous—and I’m not just talking about cocaine and heroin; there have been plenty of cases of people dying from ecstasy or MDMA, which many people still consider “soft” drugs—illegal, and lead to a bunch of trouble and turmoil that can derail future plans. To follow that narrative with, “But I did them when I was young, and I turned out OK,” completely undermines the whole argument to just say no.

Read more: Is it OK to lie to your kids?> 

I would never shame someone suffering from addiction and have explained to my kids why some people go down that road; while drugs may offer a measure of temporary relief, using them is not a healthy way to deal with emotional pain. Although it’s not my thing, I’m generally not against adults smoking a little marijuana. But I just don’t think teens are responsible enough to manage casual use, and I don’t want my own kids to think that smoking pot is an inevitable right of passage for them as they enter their tween years. That said, if it becomes clear when they’re older that they’re experimenting and a candid talk with a friend or family member who’s done drugs in the past would be helpful, I may revisit my position. But right now, it’s not information that I plan to volunteer.

Read more: Teenagers: The freedom fighters>

This article appeared in our November 2014 issue with the headline, “Would you tell your kids you’ve done drugs?” on p. 130.

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