Experts give advice on talking to kids about opioids, addiction

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) - Experts say kids are never too young or too old to be taught about opioids. Lancaster County Joining Forces gave advice on how to start that conversation Thursday.

While the nuances and content of your discussions with a pre-schooler and a teenager are different when you talk about drugs, presenters say a few things should remain the same: stick to the truth, stay calm and create trust. 

"I'm able to be really honest with my kids because they've seen it," said James Severson, a Lancaster resident.

Severson is talking about discussing addiction with his four kids.

"It was suggested of me to be consistent," said Severson. 

The dad has been in long-term recovery for more than six years and is now working with Project Lazarus to fight the opioid epidemic.

"If we're all on the same page, then we can all move forward together," said Severson.

Project Lazarus, Compass Mark, and Lancaster County Joining Forces teamed up to teach community members how to discuss opioids with all kids. 

"Talk early, talk often and keep talking," said Christine Glober, the community prevention mobilizer at Compass Mark.

Presenter Deb McCoy says talk as early as preschool, so kids can learn when it's okay to take medicine, when it's not okay and what different substances do.

"It's really essential to be open and calm when you're talking about this," said McCoy, who works at Compass Mark.

McCoy says for ages 8 to 12, you can bring the conversation to a new level by asking open-ended questions. 

"They need to know that they can talk to us," said McCoy. "We want to be the ones that answer those questions."

McCoy says if you bring up the topic of addiction when kids are younger, it increases the likeliness they will come to you later on.

Establishing trust and honesty is key.

"Be ready to hear things that you don't want to hear," said McCoy.

McCoy says once your child is 13 or older, the dialogue should include everyday realities, like the dangers of driving under the influence and the legal consequences of drugs.

"Use current events that are going on as a springboard, like the current event that happened here a couple of nights ago, here in Lancaster, where council decriminalized marijuana," said McCoy.

Severson says educating yourself before chatting with your kids pays off. 

"My children and I today have a very wonderful, close, loving relationship," said Severson. 

This was the last of a three part educational series on the opioid epidemic. Lancaster County Joining Forces plans to do another series with business professionals early next year.

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