See, we had been listening to Whitney Houston music all afternoon, without our actually telling them that she died. Mama and I mentioned the Grammys and the kids asked if Houston was getting an award. So, we had to tell them that she had died.
And I decided to tell them why.
Of course, we don't know how or why she died or even if her illegal drug use was a contributing factor. So I said we knew that she had been sick a long time, that she used drugs and they had hurt her body and her mind. That drugs--illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine, as opposed to medicines that make you healthy--are not healthy nor safe (let's ignore for now the healing properties of pot, the trouble with the drug wars, whether gateway drugs always are). However, that doesn't mean she was "bad." People sometimes don't make healthy or safe decisions, but they still have inherent worth. And we can love them and respect their talent without liking their addictions but have compassion for them. Like we did with Whitney. (I hope.)
And as I spoke, with Mama nodding nearby, I realized I knew nothing about talking to kids about drugs. And honestly, not that much about drugs because I never did them or even tried; I wasn't ever even much of a drinker. And I know very little about contemporary drug culture or issues (beyond what makes the front pages of the NYTimes with regards to laws and violence in Mexico). I know we're supposed to talk to them, often and early, like about sex, but how early? How? After my rudimentary teachable moment was over I googled it. D.A.R.E. Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Parents. The Anti-Drug. Talk and listen to your kids regularly. Be involved in their lives. Clearly state you are against their using. But most of it is for teens. Really, if 35% of wine coolers are drunk by jr high kids, isn't adolescence a little late to start talking? Partnership for a Drug-Free America did have age-related resources, with numerous ideas for the K-3 set-- focus, not on long term effects, but on immediate ones like bad breath, throwing up, and stinky clothes; set clear rules about drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; role-play ideas for how they can deal with problems they have or escape situations that make them uncomfortable.
It was good to start the conversation, I suppose; I'm going to need more practice. I'm just sorry about the impetus.
UPDATE: Pointers from Sis and Bud's teacher:
- A drug is something that changes the way you feel.
- Medicine from a doctor or a parent is given when something feels bad-to make you feel better- this an example of a good use of a drug.
- Some people abuse drugs-take them without being sick, take too many, without permission, etc.
- Children should never take any type of medicine unless it is given to them by a parent or a caregiver that was instructed by a parent. Do not take anything from an older child or even another adult without your parents'direction.
- Some medicines look like candy or juice. Never taste anything if you do not know what it is. Always ask a trusted adult first.