Many of us are starting out the New Year with a list of things we would like to accomplish in 2015. It’s a time to consider what we can do a better job at, parenting often being at the top. Did you know that as a parent you are the single most important influence on your children’s lives? The rules you set, the way you conduct your life and your conversations with them can help direct them on a successful path and away from drugs and alcohol. Years of study have shown that scare tactics and even the “Just Say No” campaign initiated by Nancy Reagan didn’t really work. Instead it’s more important to spend time having ongoing open discussions from an early age about the importance of healthy lifestyles and as they get older, the realities of alcohol abuse, smoking, taking street drugs and prescription medications.
It’s key to get the discussion going early on in an age appropriate way by serving healthy foods and with an emphasis on physical activity. Although you might think they are too young to discuss the topic with or they are “good kids”, middle schoolers need to hear it from your voice. In fact, research from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 12.8% of kids who first tried marijuana by age 14 or younger continued on to develop “illicit drug dependence or abuse” as compared to 2.6% of teenagers who tried it at 18 or older. This is due to the fact that during these adolescent years the brain is developing and rewiring and is especially susceptible to the damage drugs and alcohol can cause.
The bottom line is that if your kids see you living in a healthy way, and hear from you that these substances can be harmful, it can override the misinformation they get from their peers. In addition to this, there are other beneficial things a parent can do to support the cause. They include:
1. Look for supportive, caring adults in your child’s life at school, at your place of worship and/or in your social circle. Even if these people don’t directly discuss substance abuse, the positive relationships help to build your child’s self-confidence therefore diminishing the chances that he or she would be interested in trying anything.
2. By the teenage years, set clear rules about what will happen if they are caught taking drugs or alcohol. This isn’t the time to reflect on how you made it through high school without damage, because honestly not everyone does.
3. Lock up alcohol and prescription medicines. Research also shows that teenagers often start with what they can find around the house, or their friend’s homes. It’s not that you don’t trust them but are simply protecting everyone.
4. Support the anti-drug message they hear from the administration at school and have them take an online alcohol and drug awareness class at home like those offered at www.alcoholdrugclass.com. This information reinforces what the negative effects are on the brain and body. Taking the class online insures a hassle-free experience and the ability to stay in the privacy and comfort of home and go at their own pace.
5. Drug testing is now easily available to purchase for your own home. The excuse that you do random drug testing will give your kids a quick easy out if they feel uncomfortably pressured by their peers.