Note for Adults # 2:  Talking about the Why

The See A Needle? flyer is meant to provide the very, very basic information – the What, and What to Do.  But most kids are also going to ask Why – Why are there needles? What do people use them for? Are doctors giving shots in the park? 

Some parents/guardians may not be comfortable talking to their children about things like heroin, addiction, and illegal drug use – and depending on the age of the child, they may have NO way to understand the information! You are the best judge of what your child can comprehend, and what they can handle.

I urge you to give them some information, though. Studies have shown that when parents don’t talk to their children about certain topics, children don’t stop asking about those topics – they just stop asking their parents, instead looking elsewhere for answers: other kids, teachers, other adults in their lives, TV, the internet.  If you can bring yourself to talk to them about even the uncomfortable topics, then YOU get to steer how they view that topic – and they will know that they can come to you about it!

For younger children, basic information like: “Someone was using that to put something inside their body – but it was a bad choice to leave it out like that. We don’t throw trash on the ground, and especially not trash that can hurt someone!”

For older children: “Some people put chemicals inside their bodies – it’s like medicine**, only it’s not good for them, and it’s not from a doctor.  It’s illegal to do this, and very dangerous.”

**Some needles found in public are, in fact, from diabetics injecting insulin, and we can explain that to kids as well. But we shouldn’t pretend that’s all it is; we’re not protecting them by withholding information, but making them susceptible to misinformation from others – others who might not have their best interests at heart.

How do we answer “But why do people do that?” This comes down to how we view addiction, and our worldview. Here is what I told my son (he was 8 at that time):

“We don’t understand exactly why people do heroin, or why some people get addicted but others don’t. Some people think it’s fun – it makes their body feel a certain way, and they like that, or they think they might like that, so they try it. And some people try it and don’t like it. And some people try it, and do think it’s fun, and do it now and then but not all the time. And it’s not good for their bodies, it can cause damage, even one use. And it’s not safe to do, not even once – it's damaging to your body, and since it’s illegal, you have no idea if you’re really getting what you mean to, and it can be mixed with even more dangerous things . . .

And some people try it once or twice, and they somehow can’t stop doing it. Maybe they got a brain that doesn’t make the right chemicals in the right amounts, and so, even though it’s bad for them, it makes them feel better, at least for a short time, because it makes up for a not-working-right brain.

Or maybe they had a really bad life – a lot of pain, or an accident or really bad trauma, or their family was mean and abusive their whole life, so they never ever felt safe or okay. And the drugs make them forget about that for a little while, so even though it’s bad for their body, it still feels better than their life did without it.

I’m not happy that they’re doing it.

And I’m really not happy that they leave needles out, where they could hurt someone.

But I feel really, really bad for them – anyone stuck in addiction has to be going through a pretty terrible level of miserable.

And when you’re that level of miserable – you can’t really think about anyone else.

You’re not even making good choices for yourself.

You’re just trying to survive, the only way you think you can, from one minute to the next – and that is a terrible way to have to live.”

                                                                           ~~~

Resources/further reading:

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

On how children will keep asking questions - they just won't ask you, if they think it's a topic you don't speak to them about - primarily a resource on teaching kids about race:

http://www.newsweek.com/even-babies-discriminate-nurtureshock-excerpt-79233