Well Being

Science Says You Shouldn’t Tell Your Kids About Past Drug Use

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I look forward to having children some day more than I can say, so I am always on the lookout for things that might make parenting a little easier to navigate (though I am well aware that it's still pretty damn hard no matter what). One of the things I have long been concerned with is how to talk to my future kids about things I may have done in the past that are not necessarily healthy, such as binge drinking and smoking. According to a new study, it would simply be best if I keep quiet about it.

A survey done by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign of 561 middle school students showed that when talking to your kids about drugs, you should probably just leave out stories of past indiscretions altogether. The study, published in the journal Human Communication Research, examined how the discussions between children and their parents regarding alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana affected those kids' attitudes towards the substances.

Jennifer A. Kam and Ashley V. Middleton, who authored the study, saw kids whose parents talked to them about substances were more likely to have an anti-drug attitude. However, they also found that when parents told their children about past drug use — even as a warning against the negativities it could bring — those kids had less negative views of drugs and thought that substances were not a big deal.

It does not matter if you weren't “that kind” of drug user (i.e. the sort huddled up on Intervention tying off your bicep with a belt); even if it was just casual use, it still sends kids a message. “There could be explanations for it. Kids might be interpreting it as ‘Mom and Dad used, and they're still here,'” said Kam.

Nevertheless, being truthful with children later on in their lives may be an option for parents who want to be completely honest at some point. Kam notes, “Parents may not want to voluntarily share their past drug use with their early adolescent children, but we are not suggesting that they outright lie to their kids.”

The study was done on white and Hispanic kids living in rural Illinois, so this is by no means the final word on the subject. Plus, when you're in middle school, your attitude towards, well, practically everything changes as your get older. Even in high school, I was incredibly sure I would never be a heavy drinker or a smoker; less than a decade later and I love my bottomless mimosas and was a regular smoker all through college. Still, it is important for studies to be done on children's behavior and likelihood of drug use in order to best combat abuse later in life.

Photo: Shutterstock

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