Few things terrify parents more than the prospect of their teen (or younger) child becoming involved in dangerous drugs. But how can you possibly prevent your kids from making mistakes that could negatively affect their entire lives? Here are seven things that you can do to protect your child from the dangers of substance abuse.
1. Know what they’re up against
It’s hard to help your child avoid drugs if you have no idea what’s available and popular. Do some research into what the current drug culture is like. Find out how prevalent drug use is at your teen’s school. The chemicals that were being abused when you were young are not the same as the ones that kids today use, so find out what’s available. Read up on the subject, or even contact your local police department and ask for information. They’ll be so happy to meet a parent who is trying to curb teen drug use that they’ll bend over backwards to help you. Find counselors experienced in long term drug rehab and ask for an interview and let your child listen to their stories.
2. Be open
It might not be easy to sit down with your teen and talk about things like this, but it is exactly what every parent should do. Don’t try to be hip. Don’t bust out the “Say No to Drugs” rap, or try to turn the whole thing into a joke. Just honestly express your concern for their welfare, and let them know that you’ll always be there to talk with them if they need you. Share what you’ve learned about drugs in your research, and don’t sugar-coat it. Protecting your child’s sensibilities is less important than protecting their future. And remember, it won’t do much good just to tell them that you’ll be available for them, only to drop the ball when the time comes.
3. Set an example
Once you’ve told your teen how dangerous drugs can be, you now need to show them. Children are smart, and can sense hypocrisy from a mile away. So if you tell them that alcohol is something that they should avoid, but then you come home drunk every weekend, that lesson is going to seem pretty hollow. If you yourself are regularly using addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or anything else, make it a priority to quit. Let your child know how difficult it is to overcome chemical addictions, and involve your teen in your recovery process. And never take the “well it’s okay for adults to do” route. Dangerous chemicals don’t care if you’re 17 or 21, and teens know it.
4. Keep an eye on them
Many parents feel like their relationship will be damaged if they violate their child’s privacy, and to an extent, they’re absolutely right. Teens have a tendency to react very badly when they feel that their right to privacy has been attacked. But you need ask yourself, would you rather be your child’s friend, or their parent? You can’t always be both. Find out where your teen is spending their free time, and with whom. Keep a close eye on your child’s behavior and grades, as drastic changes in either might indicate a burgeoning substance abuse problem. It’s not always easy being the bad guy, but if you truly love your child you’ll be willing to do the difficult thing for their sake. The good news is that your child will forgive you, and will secretly appreciate the concern you’ve shown for them.
5. Spend your free time together
If you’re worried about what your teen is doing for entertainment, why not get involved? Find activities that you and your child both enjoy, and then enjoy them together. This will not only limit the situations in which they might be exposed to dangerous substances, but will also help improve your relationship with them. If your child is comfortable spending free time with you, then they’ll be comfortable talking to you about their own challenges and concerns.
6. Get to know their friends
Many teens are introduced to drugs through their friends. This doesn’t mean that you should keep your teen from spending time with people their own age, but it does mean that you should know exactly what kind of people those friends are. Invite them over to spend time with the family, and get to know their parents as well. If it seems like the relationship might have a negative impact on your teen’s behavior, then don’t be afraid to let your teen know. Be honest with your child about your concerns, and feel free to restrict interaction with certain friends if needs be.
7. Love them
The most important thing you can do for your child is love them. When you correct them, never do it out of anger. Make sure that you remind them often just how important they are to you. Set aside time to spend with them, and always make them your number-one priority. Make your child the center of your world, and they’ll be far less likely to make the kinds of mistakes that could ruin—or even end—their life.