Parents – The Number One Anti-Drug

Have you ever questioned just how much influence you have with your children, especially their decisions about use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs? You hear about peer pressure and see all the beer commercials on television and the question arises. How can parents ever compete with all of this? Parents can and they must. Recent studies show that clear and consistent messages from parents to children about drugs, alcohol and tobacco do make a very important difference. As your child's number one anti-drug influence, it is important for you to know that what you say and what you do makes a difference in your child's life.

Do you listen to your child's concerns and problems?

As a parent, do you and your spouse agree on expectations about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by your children?

Do you explain your position on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use to your children? Are there family rules? Do you let your values and faith show and do you talk about them?

The goal is to prevent problems with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco before they arise. It is much easier to prevent problems than to struggle with the solutions to a problem. Here are some further suggestions of what you can do.

Know the Facts.

Attend substance abuse information meetings at your school or church. Read drug information literature. Join a parent group. The more you know about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs the more you will be able to help your child make healthy decisions. Because new studies about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs continue to be made, keep as current as you can to know the latest facts. This will give you more credibility with your child.

Talk with your child.

Talk with your child on a regular basis about your values and attitudes about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use. Sharing your values will influence your children in a positive way. Let your child know it is NOT okay with you if they use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Explain why you feel this way.

Establish clear rules and consequences.

Talking with your child includes listening as well. Children are much more willing to talk honestly and openly if they feel they are being heard.

Model the kind of behavior you want of your children.

Do not follow the old saying; “Do as I say and not as I do". Your life needs to be a living example of your faith and the expectations that you have for your kids.

Keep informed.

Get to know your child's friends and their parents. Stay informed about who your child spends time with and what activities they participate in.

Encourage alternative activities.

Talk with your child about games to play, places to go, thing to make, things to do, items to collect and ways to volunteer. Some of these activities can be done alone, and some with friends and family. The key is to teach children that there are many healthy and productive ways to have fun and feel good, alone or with friends.

Spending time with your children is a vital part of building healthy relationships. Cultivate natural opportunities to share your life values with them and to provide factual up-to-date information about the dangers and the consequences of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Information truly is empowering.

Many young people find themselves in situations where they will have to make an important decision about drinking, smoking, or using drugs. It helps to have discussed these issues before that temptation is presented to them so they can understand the consequences of their choices.

Consider the following typical situations kids might face. Then apply the questions about how to respond. This will help you be prepared when you have opportunities to talk with your child.

What if this happens to you?

    You and your friends are hanging out at the park. One of your friends takes out a pack of cigarettes and dares everyone to smoke one. You kind of want to try one and you really don't want to be the only one to say no.
    You just found out that you did not make the basketball team. You were close, but didn't make it. You really are bummed and don't want to be around your friends. You know where your older brother keeps some marijuana. You are thinking that maybe the marijuana will make you not feel as bad.
    A good friend of yours tells you that his older sister smokes marijuana at parties sometimes and can buy some for you to try. He says that she told him that she really likes feeling high.
    You go to a party at a friend's house and you see kids taking some pills.
    You know the party this weekend will have beer and other drugs available. Your friends really want to go and they want you to come.
    Your friends ask you to get some marijuana. They know your brother sells it.
    Your friend Jason's brother had a high school graduation party, the parents served beer to all who attended.
    At the yearly youth group camping trip, one of the older boys told you he had some marijuana hidden out in the woods. He wants you to join him that afternoon.

Self-Questions Every Youth Should Ask

    Is this behavior illegal or immoral? Is it likely to get you in trouble with the law, school officials or your family?
    Could this behavior negatively affect your health, diminish your ability to make good decisions, or put you or others in possible danger of physical harm?
    Is this behavior contrary to your family's values, your religious beliefs, or what you know God wants for you?

Love: the anti-drug

You love your kids and want what's best for them, but sometimes it can be hard to demonstrate how much you love them, particularly as they grow up and become more independent. Picture the scene: you take your daughter to the mall and she doesn't to walk too close to you, or you drop off your son at practice and he leaps out of the car practically before it's come to a stop.

Research shows that one of the best ways you can help your kids avoid drug use is by spending time with them. Here are some helpful suggestions for knowing what's going on in your child's world when they seem to close every door to you. Be involved in your children's lives. According to behavioral scientist, Tony Biglan, Ph.D., there are simple ways to be part of your child's life:

Create “together time." Start a tradition or weekly routine to do something fun with your child, such going out for ice cream

Eat meals together as often as possible. Mealtime is a great opportunity to talk about the day's events, unwind, and reinforce a family bond. Studies show that kids whose families eat together at least five times a week are less likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol. Also, remember that families can talk more when the television is turned off while eating together.

Try to be home after school. The “danger zone"' for drug use and other risky behavior is between 4 and 6 p.m. If you can, arrange to have flextime if it's available at your workplace. When your child will be with friends, make sure there is adult supervision.

Communication: the anti-drug

As a parent, you want what's best for your kids. And you know as your kids grow up they will face many temptations, including drugs. According to a study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, only 27 percent of teens say they're learning a lot at home about the risks of drugs — although virtually all parents in the United States say they've talked with their children about drugs.

This isn't an issue you can handle by having “the talk." When it comes to dangerous activities such as drug use, you need to have an ongoing discussion with your child. This can be difficult to do considering the numerous demands of work, school, after-school activities and religious and social commitments. However, the more time you take to communicate with your child about drugs and other sensitive subjects, the more at ease your child will be coming to you with questions or problems.

The following are suggestions that can help you become a more effective communicator, according to behavioral scientist, Tony Biglan, Ph.D.:

Be a better listener — Ask questions and be willing to listen to what your child has to say. Paraphrase what your child says to you to make sure you understood what they meant.

Give honest answers — Don't make up what you don't know. If your child asks you something and you don't know the answer, offer to find out — better yet, make it a project to find out the answer together.

Don't react in a way that will cut off further discussion —If your child makes statements that shock you, or are counter to your beliefs, try to turn them into a calm discussion of why your child thinks the way he or she does. This can be a challenge. A negative reaction to one subject may make your child apprehensive to start future discussions about other difficult subjects.

The most important thing for you to remember is to love your children and to tell them that you love them often.