Drugs and sex: the other talk you need to have with your kids

How parents can approach the topics of drugs and sex with their teenagers.

How to talk to teenagers about drugs and sex

It’s not news that while teenagers (or anyone) are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their inhibitions can be lowered and their ability to properly consider the consequences of their actions may not really be up to scratch, no matter how in control they feel.

As parents, this is often one of the main reasons we urge our kids to try to stay away from drugs, and to avoid alcohol. We get worried about the decisions they may be making, and whether those choices are really reflective of what they’d want to do if they were maybe thinking a little more clearly. According to research, some of those concerns may just be warranted.

Testing the limit

Young people are more prone to risk-taking behaviour – as they become more independent, the transition into adulthood becomes a period of experimentation and pushing boundaries. They try new things, see what they like, and start to define themselves. If you think back, you’ll remember that even for you, this was a period where you really started to sample what life had to offer and form an opinion on what you did and didn’t enjoy. And while curiosity in itself is certainly not a problem, when the natural impulsivity of teenage years is combined with a substance that impairs judgement, the consequences can be life-changing.

Risky sexual behaviour

Research shows cannabis use at an early age can lead to poor choices when it comes to sex. It tells us cannabis use may be associated with risky sexual behaviour – less frequent use of protection, earlier initiation to sexual activity, and more partners than those who don’t use cannabis.

 

Risky sexual behaviour can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, which are higher among cannabis users than those who don’t use.

The same research makes it clear: in the developing brain, cannabis use can impair inhibitory processes, causing people to take risks or make decisions they may not usually make. And this effect can last up to 28 days after use!

Talking it through

It’s important your children know the effects using drugs can have on these processes, so even if you are unable to prevent them from using, perhaps you can ensure they are informed enough to avoid putting themselves in situations that may have further unintended consequences.

When planning a discussion about sex or drugs with your family, it’s worth thinking through how one can impact the other, and why it’s an important topic. 

A few themes to work through when talking to your family:

  • Ask them to think about what they want for their own future. What kind of decisions will they need to make in order to get there?
  • Explain to them how drugs can affect their ability to make good choices, and how sometimes the consequences of a decision can last a lifetime.
  • Talk about why it’s important not to get themselves into situations where it might be difficult to make good decisions and impulse might take over.
  • Let them know they can always come to you for support if they need it, and if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, they can always ask you for help.

As a parent you obviously want to make sure your children make the best decisions possible to set them up for a bright future. Creating an open discussion about what risks are out there could be the difference between split-second and well-thought-out decisions. Of course young people are bound to make mistakes as they grow up, so it’s also important they know they can come to you for help if and when they need it.

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