Did you know that the first introduction to alcohol or drugs can happen as early as age 11 — and sometimes younger? If you’re like many parents, you spend time worrying about how to prevent your child from using drugs and alcohol. Don’t bury your head in the sand, or convince yourself you’ll get to it this weekend. Talk early, and talk often — but don’t forget to listen.
Resources for Parents
Parents of tweens and teens know that having a sensitive conversation at this difficult age isn’t always easy. Kids get defensive easily, and they tend to keep their own secrets. They may also be skilled at lying or worried about getting friends in trouble. If you’ve tried to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol already but you receive a stone-faced return stare, don’t give up — persistence pays off.
Before you try again, get your facts straight. DrugAbuse.gov and KidsHealth.org are free websites that feature a wealth of information about drug and alcohol abuse symptoms as well as how to prevent teenage drug and alcohol abuse. You can also check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism websites for the latest statistics on substance abuse.
Put a Strategy in Place
Talking about drugs and alcohol can be hard, especially when you might feel like your own behavior is under the microscope. Setting an example for your kids is important, so never drink more than 1 to 2 drinks per day. Never take illegal drugs or keep them in your home, and if you take prescription medication, always take it precisely as directed. Dispose of unused painkillers, sleep aids, stimulants and anti-anxiety medications safely.
Once you’re prepared with the facts, choose your time to talk to your teen wisely. Long car rides are a great opportunity, because you have a captive audience and no one has to make eye contact. If a road trip isn’t in your future, wait until your teen is in a cheerful or chatty mood. Don’t lecture or yell, but share what you’ve learned. Repeat the conversation often. Don’t forget to practice “saying no” strategies that can help your child resist peer pressure comfortably in a group setting.
One way to stay involved in your child’s life is to make your home a comfortable place for his or her friends to relax. Avoid missing concerts, games and other important events whenever possible. Share appropriate details about your life so he’ll feel comfortable talking about his. Get to know your child’s friends and their families, so you can assess risk early and take note of any important changes. Leaving old friends and interests behind to spend time with new people sometimes indicates trouble.
Most importantly, stress to your child that while you’re always there to talk about substance abuse, there are other resources available to him, too. School counselors and teachers, a trusted parent of a friend, or an older sibling may all provide suitable opportunities to keep a safe and open dialogue open.
To learn more about drug or alcohol addiction, contact 12 Keys today.