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AirTalk asks: How do you talk with your kids about past substance use?

LONDON - MAY 31:  Party revellers enjoy the atmosphere on the London Underground during a Facebook cocktail party on the Circle Line on May 31, 2008 in central London, England. Tonight is the last evening when Londoners can consume alcohol on public transport. The cocktail party, organised on the networking Web site Facebook, attracted thousands of revellers to enjoy one last drink on the London Underground before the ban's enforcement on June 1, 2008. The ban, introduced by the new London Mayor Boris Johnson, is an attempt to clean up unruly behaviour on the London public transport system.  (Photo by Ann Tornkvist/Getty Images)
Ann Tornkvist/Getty Images
Party revellers enjoy the atmosphere on the London Underground during a Facebook cocktail party on the Circle Line on May 31, 2008 in central London, England.

It's a tough conversation to have: your child comes home one day and asks you if you ever drank heavily or smoked marijuana as a teenager or maybe in college.

It's a tough conversation to have: your child comes home one day and asks you if you ever drank heavily or smoked marijuana as a teenager or maybe in college.

For many parents, the knee-jerk reaction might be to hide past transgressions or maybe turn the question back to them and ask if they've tried drinking or any illicit drugs. A recent Wall Street Journal article posed the question: Should you tell your teen you tried alcohol or drugs?

Some experts say that talking with your kids about your past use can be useful if framed the right way. The key, they say, is to set up the conversation as using your past experiences as a teaching moment or learning experience rather than boasting about or glorifying past alcohol or drug use.

How, if at all, do parents talk about their past alcohol and drug use with curious children? What's the best way to find that balance of being honest with them while not encouraging risky behavior?

Guest:

Julie Cederbaum, associate professor of social work at USC; she specializes in clinical social work with children and families

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