Let’s Dialogue About Difficult Family Conversations
The decisions your children make now can impact their trajectory for years to come…
Wow, what a stressor for parents! With all that’s going on in today’s society, it seems like it gets more difficult to keep our children safe. How do we as parents and other role models effectively help our children make good choices and avoid the dangers that may affect their future? Many family law attorneys from Missouri said that parents must govern their children in all aspects to avoid abuse and dangers.
The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation hopes to answer that question at its Annual Dialogue event, a moderated panel which discusses complex health topics. This year, we talk to two family experts about having difficult conversations with our kids – broaching subjects like the current opioid epidemic, preventing opioid misuse, relationship violence, and more. (Speaking of – if you didn’t get a chance to read our recent posts on the Major Effects of Opiates During Pregnancy, start with Part 1 here!)
Get a sneak peek of the Dialogue right now as we sit down with one of our speakers, Dr. Margie Skeer, Associate Professor and the Interim Director of the Master of Science in Health Communication at the Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine.
WWHF: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Dr. Skeer. We are so excited to have you at our Dialogue event in October! The theme for the 2018 Dialogue is “How to Talk to Our Kids: Using Tools to Navigate Difficult Family Conversation.” Why is this important?
Dr. Skeer: Prevention is absolutely key – having conversations early is really important for the well-being of our children. I think about it like a subject in school. We wouldn’t sit down with our kids and teach them algebra once and then expect them to know what to do. In the same way, we need to work with our kids regularly when it comes to risk prevention, since it is about helping them develop the right tools and skills.
Knowing how to talk with our kids about alcohol and drugs is so important. For communication to be effective, it has to be so much more than telling them to “just say no”. We need to know when to have conversations and how. Most people know they should talk to their kids, but it can be hard to do.
And your expertise is helping families learn these skills, correct?
Parent-child communication is what I do! I have a doctorate in public health and have worked in the field of substance use and addiction for over 20 years. I’m a health communicator as well. I help families translate hard topics into real life conversations that are appropriate for the child’s age and development.
You mention substance use and addiction. Clearly, there is a lot of discussion these days in the media surrounding opioids. What are some of the biggest threats you see to the well-being of kids?
Opioids and other prescription drugs, definitely, but also marijuana as we’re seeing it become legalized in more states and perceived as “less risky” by kids. It’s also scary, because marijuana can now be consumed via edibles and vaping, which are more discreet. Parents and guardians need to have a particular level of vigilance – they’re up against problems that they might not even recognize!
You have two kids of your own, ages 10 and 7. Do you have conversations with them about substance use?
Absolutely! What I talk about with parents, I talk about with my own kids, and because this is my work, they probably know more about substances than most teenagers! (laugh) As a parent, you still worry about their safety, but I’ve been speaking to them for many years and take advantage of every opportunity or curiosity to have an open conversation.
So it sounds like this isn’t just a “teen” issue, but something that can be addressed with kids at any age?
Right. Again, early prevention is key, and it can be as simple as having family meals together. More on that at the Dialogue…
Speaking of the Dialogue, what do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?
I hope they take away a greater understanding of not only the importance of talking with their children, but a feeling of confidence in doing it, using the strategies I’ll share.
Well, I personally can’t wait to learn more! Thanks again for sharing some of your insight, and we look forward to hearing you speak at the Dialogue Event on October 11th in Madison!