If you are like most parents, you want to do everything you can to keep your children happy and well. You want them to be safe, healthy, and have a bright future. You want them to make good choices. And most of all, you want to protect them. And all of this includes preventing them from abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
So, what can you do to prevent your teens from abusing prescription drugs (or any drugs for that matter)? While there are no guarantees in life, there are many things you can do to decrease the risk of your teens getting tangled up in the dark world of drug abuse and addiction.
Good Communication is Vital
It’s not always easy keeping the channels of communication open with your children, especially when they become adolescents. However, establishing good communication and maintaining it from an early age will play a significant role in helping to prevent your teen from abusing drugs. You can do this by making sure you talk to your kids every day. No matter how busy you are or they are, make it a priority to spend at least a little time each day for two-way conversation.
If you’re not sure what to talk about, you can ask them about their day. Inquire about school, activities in which they are involved, or how they are feeling about specific things that may be going on in their lives. Ask questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” response. Try to avoid sounding like you are interrogating them – instead, convey genuine interest.
Ask for their opinion on things, even if it’s something seemingly minor. This gives them the message that you value their input. As they get older, have them share their thoughts and feelings about decisions that will affect them and / or the entire family. Don’t judge what they say.
Be sure to listen when they talk. Your kids can tell if you’re really paying attention or not. Listening shows respect and consideration. Show this to them and you will be more likely to get it in return. Let them know often that you want them to always feel they can talk to you about anything that may be bothering them. If you sense that something is bothering them, encourage them to talk to you. Be willing to listen without lecturing.
Talk About Drugs Early On
Don’t wait until they’re well into their teen years, or until they have already experimented with drugs to discuss this topic. Be sure you educate yourself first so you can talk intelligently on the subject and help them to understand the dangers and consequences of drug use. Share your concerns about what could happen to them if they started using drugs. Let them know the different ways drugs can seriously hurt them, such as increasing the chances of getting into an accident, affecting their ability to do well in school, serious side effects (including death), and the dangers of using different drugs together or with another substance, such as alcohol
Make it clear without preaching what the expectations and rules are in your home regarding drug and alcohol use, as well as the consequences. Be sure to always acknowledge and praise them when they meet expectations and follow rules. When they do break a rule, make sure you consistently follow through with consequences. If you don’t, they will never take the rules you set down seriously.
Many kids first start to experience pressure from peers to try drugs and other substances in grade school, so start talking to them then. Talk to them about their friends and the types of things they do when they get together. Learning about their friends and activities will give you valuable information and clues to whether or not drugs may be a potential issue. It is your role to guide them in making good decisions when it comes to the friends they choose.
Talk to them about peer pressure and discuss ways they can deal with it when it occurs. Be supportive and encouraging so they will feel safe coming to you when there is a problem. Ask them if they have ever felt pressured and if so, how they handled it. Let them know that you are always available to talk about this issue.
Be Involved in Their Lives
Your children long for your attention and approval. If they are involved in any hobbies, sports, or other activities, show interest and be sure to attend related events such as recitals, plays, or games whenever possible. Your kids will be much more likely to talk to you if they know you care enough to make time for the things that are important to them.
Have regular family activities, such as game night or movie night. Also, be sure to regularly spend one on one time with each of your children, even if it is just once a month. Let them choose the activity at least sometimes (within reason, of course) for your scheduled one on one time together.
Help them with homework and school projects when they ask. Encourage them to talk about the things they like and dislike about what they are learning. Attend parent teacher conferences as much as possible so you are aware of any potential problems or concerns about which you may not otherwise be aware.
Encourage them to get involved in things that interest them. Teens are much more likely to abuse drugs if they are bored and have too much time on their hands. If they are involved in activities such as sports, volunteer work, music, etc., this will help build their self-esteem and give them something to be proud of.
Help Build Positive Self-Esteem
One of the most important ways to develop a positive relationship with your children and decrease the risk of drug abuse is to boost their self-esteem. Your approval is very important to them, and genuine praise from you carries a lot of weight. Give it often and lavishly, but be sure it is genuine. Tell them regularly that you love them. Remind them frequently the things that you really appreciate about them and that make you proud. Far too many parents tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive when it comes to their children.
If you tend to criticize them often or say negative things that tear them down, it will take a significant toll on their self-image and personal sense of worth. Kids who receive a lot of criticism start to feel that they can’t do anything right. They may begin to feel that you are impossible to please, which can lead to defiance or resentment.
A strong self-esteem is a powerful weapon against self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse.
Set a Good Example
Parents are the most important role models in the lives of children. Be sure you are setting the example that you want them to imitate. If you want them to live a clean, healthy lifestyle, it’s essential that you are doing this yourself. If you are abusing alcohol or drugs yourself, your child is not going to respect you or listen to you when it comes to conversations about drug use.
That being said, don’t expect your children to be just like you. Accept the fact that they are their own unique individuals with their own unique likes, dislikes, dreams, and goals. If you push them to do or be something that isn’t a good fit for them, they will eventually resent you. Strong feelings of resentment can fuel the desire to seek escape in alcohol and drugs.
Keep Your Home Environment Happy and Peaceful
This doesn’t mean you have to recreate the Brady Bunch. But a happy, positive and peaceful home environment will foster happy and positive children. If you home is filled with fighting, yelling, or negativity in general, your children are going to be much more vulnerable to the temptation of drugs. Don’t give them a reason to seek ways to escape.
Don’t Make Drugs Easily Accessible in Your Home
Most likely you or someone in your family has taken or is currently taking a prescription drug. It is your responsibility to make sure you keep all drugs locked up and out of reach. Don’t naively think your teen would never consider experimenting with prescription medications. They can be very tempting and most teens tend to assume they are safe since they are prescribed by a doctor.
Always closely monitor any prescription or OTC medications in the home. Make sure that the quantities of pills are always accurate. Encourage friends and relatives to do the same, and help make them aware of the growing problem of teen prescription drug abuse. When you are done with any medications, be sure to dispose of them properly. Don’t just toss them in the garbage where they could end up in the wrong hands.
Give Your Teen the Benefit of the Doubt, But Don’t be Foolishly Naïve or Turn a Blind Eye
Parents tend to get very defensive at the very suggestion that their child may be using drugs. They are so adamant that their child would never do such a thing, only to find out the hard way that they were wrong. Good kids are still vulnerable to temptation. All it takes is one wrong decision at a party or the desire to fit in for drug abuse to quickly become a serious problem.
Teen prescription drug abuse does not discriminate. It can affect any family, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, and so on. Never assume it can never happen to your family. But if you follow the guidelines for prevention above, you can significantly decrease the odds that your teen will abuse drugs.