The Parent’s Role in Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Teenagers who are taught the dangers of drug use at home are 42 percent less likely to use drugs, according to www.theantidrug.com. The site also reports that 2 out of 3 teens believe they would lose the trust and respect of their parents if they tried drugs. It comes as no surprise, then, that parents are the “anti-drug” in question. The link is strong between parents who skillfully communicate the dangers of drugs and kids who resist the temptation to try them.
By the time most children reach their teenage years, they will have encountered plenty of references to drugs and alcohol. The website www.talkingwithkids.org points out that popular culture is full of content relating to drugs and alcohol. However, the presentation is often skewed. Many movies, television shows, songs, and even video games depict the substances as fun and cool without demonstrating the disastrous potential they have for causing addiction, physical harm, and mental anguish.
Certainly, the entertainment world’s glorification of drugs and alcohol contributes to the curiosity in young minds that leads to experimentation. In light of this, parents should be aware of what their kids are watching and listening to. Deciding how to censor is a personal choice for the parents; each family has its own set of values and priorities. However, kids are inevitably going to get ideas about drugs from somewhere, so it is always a good idea for them to develop an understanding of the risks at home first. That way, when they meet tempting or unrealistic portrayals of drugs later on, their curiosity will be checked by their knowledge.
Besides the ubiquitous yet unreliable presentation of drugs and alcohol in pop culture, drugs and alcohol will always be a hot social topic among teenagers. Kids talk about recreational drug use (including drinking) at school, at parties, and off campus, and it can either be the subject of friendly conversation or humiliating peer pressure. Furthermore, with modern forms of instant messaging, young people are constantly in communication, so it is possible for them to be influenced by their peers at any time of day.
In light of the familiarity kids have with the world of drugs and alcohol, they need a firm support system at home. Unless they have a solid foundation of knowledge, self-esteem, and family support, kids are more likely to experiment with the drugs in an effort to gain acceptance or just appease curiosity. Then, having broken the ice with “gateway” drugs like alcohol or marijuana, they will have opened the door to future addiction, legal trouble, and bodily harm, not to mention the turmoil that can ensue within the family unit.
Considering that some kids are as young as 9 or 10 years old when they first try alcohol or marijuana, it’s never too early to begin an ongoing conversation with them, and it’s never too late. Even parents who fear that a teen has already dabbled in drugs or gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd can remedy the situation by taking an active interest in the child’s life.
Some parents may feel uncomfortable talking with their children about drugs or are unsure how to raise the issue without creating awkward tension, but there are some time-tested methods for engaging children in a productive discussion. The conversations should be friendly, as opposed to threatening, and parents should be careful to listen to everything their kids have to say. Asking questions instead of dominating the discussion encourages the child to open up. When parent and child are sensitive to each other’s feelings, a mutual trust and confidence develops, and the child will naturally want to preserve the familial bond.
Experts recommend that parents make time to talk about drugs with their kids and to regularly reinforce their wishes for a drug-free family. Their own actions as role models should be appropriate and consistent with their teaching. Parents cannot live life for their kids, and overbearing attempts to control every aspect of a child’s life can lead to a rebellious attitude. However, when a deep, meaningful relationship grows out of honest communication, children will be more likely to respect their parents’ advice and choose not to experiment with dangerous substances.