Connecticut Children’s child psychologist shares how parents can talk about dangers of drugs

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Thirteen years old. That’s the age of the Hartford student who overdosed on fentanyl at the Sport and Medical Science Academy on Thursday.

Officials News 8 spoke with all had the same recommendation.

“If you’re a parent, have that tough conversation with your child tonight,” Mayor Luke Bronin (D-Hartford) said at a press conference Thursday.

But what is the right age to have that conversation?

“The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests around the age of eight or nine,” Dr. Melissa Santos, the division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s said.

Santos said with younger children, try to bring it up casually.

“Maybe you and your young child are watching TV, and somebody on TV is smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol,” Santos said. “You can say, ‘This is what they’re doing, and this is the impact of that.'”

Remote learning and fewer parties have meant fewer kids experimenting with drugs during the pandemic, but eventually, your kids will probably be offered something, and it’s not as simple as ‘just say no’.

“So, how do we help them build the skills to say, ‘No, I’m not really interested,’ or, ‘I don’t really care to do that right now,’ and be able to walk away,” Santos said. “I think we have to prepare them for the time that they will be exposed to those things.”

If you haven’t had that talk yet, the overdose at the Sport and Medical Science Academy presents an opportunity.

“And say, like, you know, ‘Have you heard what happened on the news? You know, this kid and what happened in Hartford,’ and ‘what are you hearing at school?'” Santos said.

School officials emphasized the importance of speaking up about drug use.

“If a student, family, or anyone sees something, say something because not only do we have folks at school that can support, but we have experts that can help us try to get to the bottom of what has happened,” Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the superintendent of Hartford Public Schools said.

While the Sport and Medical Science Academy was closed Friday, there was counseling offered at a nearby school for anybody who wanted to about what happened.

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