By the time they are teenagers, and often before, our children have probably been given the opportunity to experiment with drugs. As parents, we know that drugs are one of the most harmful things available to our children and we must make every effort to help them to remain drug free. Children who use drugs often struggle in school, engage in dangerous behaviours, and pull away from family members. Continued drug use has a definite detrimental effect on the quality of life.
One of the most important steps that you can take to keep your kids’ drug free is to remain actively involved in their lives. Bored children or those who don’t feel a sense of belonging, are at an increased risk of becoming involved in drug use. Although children may not always act like they want you around, they are usually appreciative of your involvement. Children will seek acceptance, be sure that they get it at home rather than from a group of inappropriate friends.
Talk It Out
Talk to your kids about drug abuse and start when they are young. Children are exposed to drugs earlier than those of a generation ago – if you wait until they are teenagers, chances are that they have already been approached to try drugs. Arm them with the knowledge that drugs are harmful to their health, both physical and emotional, and encourage them to come to you with their questions and concerns.
In addition to talking specifically about drug use and abuse, talk about feelings, stress, peer pressure, and healthy ways to deal with difficult emotions. Children who have a healthy outlet for their feelings will be less inclined to seek artificial ways to relieve stress and gain peer acceptance.
Make It Your Business
Although teenagers can sometimes resent what they see as intrusiveness by their parents, it is your right and responsibility to know what your children are doing. Make it a point to know your children’s friends and keep in contact with other parents. Allow your children to attend parties only when there will be adult supervision and don’t be afraid to check with other parents to see that what the kids say will be happening is the truth. Teens, by their very nature, will test their limits; you have to keep a close eye out to be sure that they don’t run into more trouble than they can handle.
Set the Rules
As parents, we sometimes must set rules that our children will find objectionable. Sometimes, they will even dislike us for setting and enforcing those rules. As difficult as it can be to be at odds with our children, it is our responsibility to look out for their best interests and keep them safe. Make it clear that drug use is not acceptable and establish consequences for disobedience. You don’t always have to be popular with your children, but you do have to be responsible for them.
Keep Them Busy
Encourage your children to get involved with sports and other extracurricular activities. Children who have busy lives filled with productive activities are far less likely to experiment with drugs than their less involved peers. Athletics, theatre, art, and music are all good choices.
Lead By Example
Kids learn by listening, but they learn more by watching. Be sure that you set a good example for your children by living a drug free life. If your children see you using drugs to relieve stress or cope with everyday aches and pains, they will see this as normal behaviour and will be likely to behave in a similar fashion. Illegal drugs need to be off limits, of course, but be cautious about using prescription or over-the-counter medications, too. Telling your children that there are healthier ways to deal with stress than by taking drugs, but then habitually taking a sleeping tablet to help you unwind at night sends a mixed message. Be careful about the example that you set for your children.