Thankfully we’re not worried about Mackenzie mixing it up with the wrong crowd just yet when it comes to drugs. But every parent knows that some day we’ll have to have those tough discussions and wonder what sort of choices she will make. This post comes a fellow mom who knows that keeping those lines of communication open and helping your children know what choices are wise in life make a huge impact.
If you’re a parent, the thought of your child using drugs or alcohol has probably crossed your mind. Indeed, teen substance abuse is a problem faced by many parents, even those who do everything in their power to keep their children safe, healthy and away from addictive substances. So, what are we, as parents, supposed to do? How can we teach our children to abstain from drugs and alcohol, while also giving them the space and independence they need to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults? Keep reading to find out.
Perhaps the most valuable tool available in preventing teen drug abuse is communication. And though it can make for difficult conversation, discussing drugs and alcohol with your children is crucial to their well-being. Tips like the following can help open the lines of communication:
- Make drugs a part of your normal conversation. Many parents save all their questions, information and advice for one big “talk.” And while any discussion on the topic is worthwhile, frequent conversations may be more beneficial. Talking more often will promote openness and honesty, and will help your children feel more comfortable with confiding in you.
- Make an effort to relate. Most parents can remember how it felt to be a teenager, and to be faced with difficult decisions like whether or not to use drugs. Use your own experience as a way of relating to and understanding your kids.
- Don’t push. Pushy, judgmental or accusatory language can damage the lines of communication. Instead, remind your kids that you’re coming from a place of love and respect, and encourage them to speak freely and without fear of judgment. And, if your child does come to you with a problem, let them know that you’ll be there to help them, every step of the way.
When it comes to substance abuse, parents not only have to be aware of what their kids are doing, but how their kids are behaving, as well. However, since puberty and adolescence are associated with mood swings and other changes in behavior, identifying drug use can be challenging. And while the signs of substance abuse can vary, they often include the following:
- Drastic changes in mood or behavior. These can include aggression, irritability, depression, anxiety, changes in sleeping or eating habits, social isolation and severe mood swings.
- Changes in appearance. While experimenting with one’s looks is a part of growing up, drug abuse is often associated with a disregard for clothing, appearance and hygiene.
- Social changes. Teenagers often change social circles like the change their clothing, but if your child seems to be spending more and more time with troubled kids or an “edgier” crowd, substance abuse may be a factor.
- Physical symptoms. The physical signs of substance abuse can be especially telling. They can include restricted or dilated pupils, slurring, stumbling, “nodding off” or sleeping at odd hours, bloodshot eyes, etc.
- Problems at school. Poor attendance, bad grades and behavioral issues at school can stem from a problem with drugs or alcohol.
In addition to communication and awareness, factors like the following can help you keep your kids safe from the dangers of drugs and alcohol:
- Encourage independence. When we trust our children enough to give them some freedom, they’ll likely behave in a more trustworthy manner. Let your kids know you trust their judgment, but also offer sound advice and an ear for listening.
- Teach personal responsibility. By teaching your kids that they, alone, are responsible for their choices and actions, you can help promote better decision-making skills.
- Keep them busy. Children and teenagers often respond positively to structure and order. Keep them busy with hobbies and projects, and encourage them to engage in as many healthy activities as possible.
Although substance abuse is a serious issue, there are ways to protect your children without resorting to drastic measures. With the tips provided here, you can help your children make the right choices concerning drugs and alcohol, while strengthening your relationship in the process.