Like many, I was shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Cory Monteith from an overdose of heroin and alcohol, as the British Columbia coroner confirmed this afternoon. I am a Glee fan, and his character, Finn Hudson, and the actor himself were both very likable, but I don't think ultimate that's what has me upset about the loss of this Hollywood star.
What I think has really struck me about the death of this Hollywood star is that he very publicly discussed that he started using drugs and alcohol at a very young age. That hit close to home and is a reason to talk with your child about alcohol and drugs. Today. Do it today.
Monteith gave an interview a few years ago saying that by age 13 he was skipping school to get drunk and use drugs. It doesn't seem like much a leap to assume that he was starting to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an age even younger than that. He was likely doing drugs and alcohol as a tween.
I think that is what really strikes me - his ultimately fatal issues started around the age that my child is now.
Drugs and alcohol and addiction, and their devastating consequences, are no longer issues that are far off in the future, a parenting worry that I can push off for another day, or year.
They are issues now.
They are issues at my front doorstep.
My town has a well-documented issue with drug use, and particularly with heroin. It has killed several teens and young adults here, just as it killed Cory Monteith.
I'd like to think the fact that my kiddo wants to see the movie Turbo means that she won't have to just say no to drugs and that drugs have not entered her orbit, but I know I'm wrong. By the 8th grade, 29.5 percent of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15.5 percent have smoked cigarettes, and 15 percent have used marijuana.
My tween didn't watch Glee regularly, but I allowed her to watch the musical numbers on DVR, and she was somewhat familiar with the characters. She was surprised when I told her that Finn had passed away and then rolled her eyes when I said that his tragic death illustrates why we repeatedly talk to her about drugs and I launched into the drugs are dangerous and deadly spiel. My tween rolled her eyes. I've decided to take this as a good sign. She has heard my talk about drugs. She knows it well enough to be sick of it. She knows exactly where I stand.
Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not, according to drugfree.org.
I won't be with her when someone tells her heroin is awesome or when someone offers her a joint, but I'm really hopeful that she'll hear my voice anyway because she's heard it so many freaking times. I hope she hears it when she considers drinking alcohol, too. Young people who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who never drink, according to dosomething.org.
I wish that that knowledge brought me peace of mind, but I don't think any parent aware of the consequences of addiction, or even trying something just once, is entirely comfortable. We must rely on the fact that we've done what we can to help them make good choices, and that we've talked with them until the cows came home. And then we hope and pray that they also come home, safe and sound and alive.
For info on how to talk with your kids about drugs, check out these resources:
-KidsHealth.org has advice for parents broken down by age of child, including a section for those age 8-12, here, including the advice, "Even if your question doesn't immediately result in a discussion, you'll get your kids thinking about the issue. If you show your kids that you're willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future."
- National Institute on Drug Abuse has several different publications and websites and reminds parents, "You have more influence over your child than you think. The guidance and messages you give your children can help to keep them drug free."
- DrugFree.org notes, "Research shows that when parents talk openly about drugs and drinking, children have better self-control and develop more negative perceptions of these risky behaviors." and offer some sample conversations for parents. They also feature a publication for grandparents who are also influential in preventing their grandchildren from drinking and using drugs.
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