As your children approach their teenage years, it’s easy to fear drug use. Addiction, after all, doesn’t discriminate against race, gender, ethnicity, or social standing. Even if you’ve “raised your kids well,” illicit substances, and the pressure to experiment with them, can still influence your children.
The reasons for teenage drug use are as complex as teenagers themselves; peer pressure, boredom, family history, and rebellion are just some of the reasons kids begin to use drugs. And for many teens, experimentation with marijuana can lead to use of other drugs, including prescription drugs, cocaine, and even meth.
As a parent, one of the best preventative measures you can take is to talk with your children from an early age about the risks of drug use so you can help them make good choices.
Talk to Your Kids about Drugs
Talking to your kids about drugs is an incredibly important way to lay the foundation for a drug-free home. Taking the time to talk can make all the difference. By having this dialog, you are showing your children how much you care, which means more to your kids then it sometimes seems!
It’s not always easy, so here are some tips to help you get started.
Educate yourself. Information is your most powerful tool! Get the facts about common misperceptions kids have about drug use. Learn about which substances are most commonly abused by young people. Know the signs of drug use (e.g., changes in behavior, worsening hygiene, missing or ditching school, and suffering grades). Find out how to get a teen help for a drug problem.
Talk openly. Start a two-way dialogue from an early age, although it’s never too late to start the conversation. Talk about the types of drugs, their dangers, and the ways they can damage someone’s life. Be prepared to answer questions and to hear what your kids have to say.
Ask for your children’s views. Encourage your kids to talk by asking for their points of view. Listening to their opinions, concerns and questions is more effective than a long, boring lecture.
Make your position clear. It’s never too early to make sure your children know how seriously you disapprove of any and all drug use.
Act it out. Sometimes telling your teenagers to “just say no” isn’t enough. Resisting peer pressure can be difficult, so help them by practicing potential conversations and responses.
Stress continued communication. Maintain ongoing honest communication with your children. Let them know that you’re always available to listen, answer questions, help solve problems, and provide support. By offering an open, nonjudgmental ear, your teenagers will be more likely to come to you in times of crisis or when they are confronted with drug use.
Drug use is, unfortunately, a common problem that many teens have to address within their peer group. By taking the time to have ongoing conversations with your kids about your expectations, and developing strategies to help them meet your rules, you can have a huge impact on preventing the use of illegal drugs.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a series. Be sure to check back next week for part two, which will address what to do if your child tests positive for drugs.