No parent wants to see their child suffer from the negative effects of drug addiction, yet many mistakenly believe there is nothing they can do to stop their kids from experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Some parents think this behaviour is normal and acceptable, but the fact is - the earlier teens start using drugs and alcohol the greater their risk for alcoholism and drug abuse. Early substance abuse prevention is one of the best ways to lower the risk for addiction, and this prevention starts at home with families and parents. There are steps parents can take to help their kids and teens steer clear of alcohol and drug abuse.
The greatest factor influencing a teen's choice not to use drugs is their parents. It is important that kids and teens have good role models when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse. While there is no way to guarantee your kids will not try drugs, the least you can do is try — and the following steps will help:
1. Communication is key.
Drug abuse prevention starts with communication. Establishing good communication habits early on will make having difficult conversations about substance abuse easier. Talk to your children daily and try asking open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer such as “What was your favourite part about today?” instead of “Did you enjoy school?”
Remember that communication is a two way street that involves both talking and listening. When your children know you will listen to them they will be more likely to come to you when concerns about substance use come up later.
The earlier you start talking to your kids about the dangers of substance abuse the better, but it is not always easy to start these conversations. One option is to use movies and television shows to spark conversations about irresponsible behaviour. Educate yourself about the effects of drug abuse so you can relay factual information to your children.
Be sure to ask about their thoughts on substance use and dispel any myths they might believe. Common myths among youth are that everyone drinks and marijuana is not harmful. This is not true, and they should know this. As well, having frequent conversations about drug abuse is better than giving a one-time lecture.
Teach and role-play multiple ways to say no when alcohol and drugs will inevitably be presented. If kids and teens know what they are going to say it will be easier for them to resist peer pressure.
2. Get to know your children's friends.
Be active in your child's life. Meet your child's friends and their parents. Ask questions about where they are going and what they are doing with their friends. Secretive behaviour and having new friends that parents never meet are signs of drug abuse in teens.
Talk about how to be a good friend, and the fact that real friends would never reject someone who does not want to do things that are unsafe or not allowed. Let them know that doing things they know are unacceptable is not a good way to fit in, and involve your children in activities such as scouting, sports, or other after school clubs they are interested in where they can easily make friends while learning new skills and developing healthy habits.
3. Limit access to inhalants, prescription drugs and alcohol within the home.
Inhalants are the earliest abused substance. Common household products such as glue, computer cleaners, and anything in an aerosol container can be huffed by children — and this type of drug abuse is extremely dangerous.
Replace potential inhalants with water based products and throw away products that are not being used. Always store any products with the potential for abuse in a safe place away from children.
Kids and teens often try alcohol for the first time within the home without parents knowing. If you keep alcohol at home, store it in a safe place and monitor alcohol levels in the bottle. If you suspect your teen has been drinking alcohol, talk to them about it and enforce consequences.
Prescription drug abuse is also on the rise. Talk to your kids about the risks of using any medication not prescribed to them. Throw away any prescriptions you are not taking, and store any prescription drugs in a safe, locked place.
4. Make clear rules and consequences.
Have clear rules regarding alcohol and drug abuse. Discuss your rules, expectations and consequences in advance. Involve your child in the process of determining what a reasonable curfew is and what his or her consequences will be for breaking any rules. Let your child know that you are not okay with them experimenting with drugs and alcohol and that you would be very disappointed in them if this occurred. If rules are broken, be sure to consistently enforce consequences.
5. Be a role model.
The best thing you can do to help prevent your children and teens from abusing substances is to be a good role model. This means not smoking or doing drugs, and if you do drink do so in moderation and never drink and drive. Demonstrate how to have fun, manage stress, and solve problems without substances.
Never host a party where under age drinking is allowed in your home — not only is it illegal, but teen alcohol use is related to a number of negative consequences including higher risk for developing alcoholism.
As addiction is a genetically linked disease, if you or someone in your family has battled addiction it is even more important to talk to your children early and often about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse and how substance experimentation can lead to the horrors of addiction. It is important for them to know that their risk for developing addiction may be greater than their friends.
Overall, preventing future addiction starts early and at home. Consistent and caring communication, clear rules and consequences, and good modeling of ways to cope without substances can go a long way.
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We encourage you to contact one of our counsellors today if you are concerned about Drug/Alcohol Addiction.
(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)