Every parent lives with fear. There are so many nightmares about what could go wrong for your children. Fortunately very few of them come true. But amongst all the unlikely threats there is one that is quite real—that your child will experiment with drugs and alcohol, and that experimenting may have long-term consequences. So how can you, as a parent, protect your children?
Be a Role Model
Most teenagers go through a long period when they seem to reject on principle everything their parents stand for. So it might seem that to be a role model for abstinence will only encourage greater determination to indulge. But it is not necessarily so—parents are still one of the greatest influences on young people.
What many teenagers say they hate most about their parents is hypocrisy, maintaining one set of standards while living another. If you can be consistent in the message, your kids will not admit to agreeing with you, of course. But they will take your views a bit more seriously.
If you do not want your kids to experiment with drugs and alcohol, the best way to indicate your feelings is not to be casual about them at home. Be strict with yourself, and don’t try to make a distinction between alcohol and other drugs, because as an addictive mind-altering substances go, alcohol is as bad as most.
Be a Communicator
Teenagers are going through a stage when they are discovering the power to make their own decisions. So rules have to be arrived at by agreement. Sit down and discuss what is going to be allowed and what is not, and, more importantly, why. If there is no agreement then it is down to you, as the adult, to find a way to break through.
If you suddenly discover a new and intense interest in this one particular aspect of your kids’ lives, you will be written off as an interfering phony. That is why this communication business has to start long before the drugs issue raises its head. Make time to discuss every aspect of their lives—games, hobbies, friends, school, and so on. Then your interest in what happens at weekend parties will not seem so obtrusive.
Be a Watcher
It is natural for teenagers to keep some areas of their lives private, but if you have a good level of communication, you should be able to spot if there are signs that something might be going wrong, and that drugs might be involved. So be aware of the factors that increase risk (like a family history of drug abuse, or traumatic changes in life) and watch out for danger signals.
Look for clues that drugs may be playing a part in your teenager’s life. Many common indicators of drug abuse are also natural reactions to hormonal changes, so don’t jump to conclusions if your child exhibits changes in appetite or sleep patterns, mood swings, or sudden rushes of enthusiasm or lethargy; but be aware of the possibility of drugs.
Changing patterns of social behavior may be clearer indicators of a problem. Excessive secretiveness about what company is being kept, frequently getting into fights, shortage of money when it is not clear where it is going—all these could show a problem in the making.
Be a Helper
If you come to believe that your teenager may have a problem with drugs, then your support will be vital, and you will want to get educated fast about how best to offer it. Many drug rehabilitation programs like Clearbrook Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania also run support plans for families, where you can get advice and guidance, and that sort of expertise can be invaluable for the floundering parent.
You kids’ school may also have resources to help you. The teachers and support staff have seen the problems many times before and will be only too willing to offer the benefit of their experience and training.
A Consistent Message
What teenagers need, despite all appearances, is a home where they not only know that they are loved, but also see consistent standards being lived out. The temptation to experiment with drugs is as great now as it has ever been in the past, and no child is guaranteed immunity. But if you can keep open the windows of communication and do your best to live by the standards you express, you will be doing as much as you can to keep your child safe from the worst effects of drug culture.
Eva Bolton works with young people to educate them about drink and drugs. She also makes sure to include parents on the discussion and is furthering that reach with her online articles