Students’ experience at home is the largest single factor in whether or not they will have a drug or alcohol problem early in life. The stress and pain from living in an alcohol- or drug-affected family can lead to the use of other substances. Several steps need to be take place to enhance a family’s role in preventing alcohol or drug addiction. First, we must create family environments where it is not acceptable to be drunk or high on drugs. If a parent, other adult, or child has an alcohol or drug problem, someone must have the courage to address it. Students’ spot hypocrisy faster than adults can speak it. We must talk clearly to our children about our expectations that they not drink, smoke, or take drugs — but our own behavior is must more influential than our words. Adults must model what they want youth to become.
All youth are at risk of developing substance abuse problems if they are exposed to addictive substances and use them repeatedly. But a number of risk factors increase the chances that they will become drug-involved, including:
- Alcoholism or addiction in the family
- Domestic violence or child abuse
- Lack of adult supervision
- Childhood aggression
- Lack of problem-solving
- Rejection by peers
- Lack of commitment to school
If a student has some of these risk factors, he or she is not doomed to become a substance abuser. Even kids at high risk may never develop an addiction. By taking steps now, you can help students avoid or delay any drug experimentation. And delay is key: kids who start experimenting at an early age are considerably higher risk for developing addictions. Someone who makes it to age 20 without abusing drugs or alcohol is less likely to develop a substance abuse problem. Here are just a few things you can do:
- Do a family history to determine whether your family has shown signs of alcoholism or other addiction.
- Evaluate your own use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
- Foster strong family bonds to help counter powerful peer influences.
- Set clear expectations for behavior.
- Let your kids know they can talk to you about anything, without harsh judgment or lectures.
- Expose your children to activities like sports, art, music, reading, or drama, so that they develop avid interests.
- Help your child feel a part of his or her school.
- Teach your child to make independent decisions.
- Teach your child to cope with frustration and stress.
10. Teach your child to be skeptical of sales pitches.
Students whose parents urge them not to use drugs are less likely to do so — even if they’re pressured by peers. You can help protect your family by creating a loving home and by focusing on the following:
- Let family members know you love them.
- Make time for fun.
- Establish or renew family traditions.
- Hold family meetings to problem-solve and plan activities.
- Limit television.
- Make time for each child.
- Communicate your values.
Other Parenting Tips
- Observe your students in different settings. Be aware that behaviorial problems can be risk factors for kids. Know that normal teens moodiness are not the same. If a family member is abusing substances, don’t try to handle everything alone.
- Get to know your student’s friends and dates. Open communication keeps you in touch with those to whom your child is close.
- Know where your children are. Require them to inform you about where they are and to get home on time. Rules and consequences, limits and freedom, teach children to be responsible.
- Talk openly about drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Give examples of situations when children may be offered drugs or alcohol. Talk about what they can do to stay out of trouble.
- Take family members’ concerns seriously. Treat them with respect, and let them know that whatever happens, you are there for them.
- Many times when parents suspect something is not normal, they will wait and see what shakes out. Be proactive and do not be afraid to do the research on your student and find out what is going on. Give students the benefit of the doubt, but be diligent to check out the activities in which he or she is involved.
Information for this article was gleaned from many sources, such as: National Institutes of Health; www.jointogether.org; www.connectforkids.org; www.well.com.user/woa; Center for Drug Free America; and www.teenchallenge.com