She was genuinely surprised. “You’re talking about sex and drugs with your 8 and 10 year old kids?” Her immediate reaction was, “I don’t need to discuss these things with my daughter. She’s such a good girl, surrounded by good kids – these things won’t even occur to her.” Between the lines, I thought I could hear a silent “What if you’re putting ideas into their heads?”
The way I see it, my kids are at an age when they start to grasp more and more about the grownup world surrounding them. They are still very naive, of course, and they don’t comprehend the many subtleties of grownup actions and interactions, but they can definitely understand simple messages and ideas such as “Sometimes young girls are pressured to have sex before they are ready” (yes, we talked about sex and they have a basic understanding of what it is).
Or “People use drugs and alcohol becuase it makes them feel good, but then they need to use even more becuase the good feeling only lasts for a while, and becuase it’s very expensive and very bad for people’s health, becoming addicted – feeling the need to keep using these substances – makes them lose everything. In fact, some of the homeless people you see on the street are there because they have become addicted to alcohol or to drugs. So it’s better to learn to feel good about ourselves without using drugs or alcohol, and always say no if someone offers them to us.”
Kids this age still listen to their parents and value their input, and this is important. A few years from now, as Betsy Wuebker so eloquently puts it, their brains will be abducted by aliens and they will only be returned to me around the age of 20. (See her incredible post What I Learned From Motherhood for more). Which means that now is the time for me to talk about it all – sex, drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, and the peer pressure that could some day make them think they should do things and engage in actions that could be devastating to their health and to their future.
So, am I putting ideas into my kids’ heads? I don’t think I am. Despite living in a good neighborhood with great schools, I am fairly confident that my children WILL have to face at least some of these dilemmas and temptations as teenagers. Just like we talk about how bad smoking cigarettes is, or about bullying, it’s important to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol, the pressure to engage in these activities, and the possibility of addiction and of disease. And right now is the best time to do so – while they still listen. Hopefully, some of it will stay with them through the years and guide them towards making the right decisions, at least some of the time.
Of course, I could be very wrong. 🙂 Would love to read your opinions.