Is drug or alcohol use/abuse a symptom of a deeper issue for my child or our family dynamic?
There are many reasons why any one individual could turn to drug and alcohol abuse. For many, it is a means to help relax after a stressful moment. Others may partake in order to make a “good time even better.” Regardless of the reasoning, even the most innocent of situations could cause a downward spiral depending on the situation of the individual. For children, this could become a situational hazard that can set them on a dark path for the rest of their lives.
A study performed in 2008 showed that at least 39-percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have tried alcohol at least once in their life. Many of these children try it as a result of curiosity. They wish to learn the allure alcohol has for parents and society members. Most of the time, a child may display disgust with the drink and won’t touch another for several years to come. However, there are those that continue the experience for much of the same reasons adults will. Can we see ourselves mirrored in our children?
1. Teenage Justification – Some teens will drink for no other reason than to demonstrate their own sense of being old enough to control their own lives. Other teens will utilize drugs and alcohol as a way to “fit in” with peers. Unfortunately, the process of fitting in could create an addiction to the feeling of belonging as well as the mind-altering state the chemicals provide. For many teenagers, it is a basic need to be liked by those of the same age group. Out of fear that they won’t fit in, they partake in behaviors that the teens rationally wouldn’t subject themselves to.
2. Parental Influence – As children learn a great deal of their behavior from parents as they grow, the influence of using drugs and alcohol can be great. In their young minds, they glorify the parents and assume that this is the behavior that is expected of them as they age. However, the extreme side of the behavior can also be attributed to the actions of the parent while under the influence of a substance. It is two distinct points of view that can have radical motivations of remaining sober or becoming an abuser.
Read more on the role families play in the fight against drugs at The American Mental Health Alliance website, where you will find two great articles; Part I: Impact on the Family and Part II: how recovery for the family offers much-needed hope and healing when it addresses substance abuse as a family disease.
3. A Vacation from Reality – One of the most predominant reasons why so many turn to drugs and alcohol is the feeling of euphoria that is granted. A life can be so disturbingly stressful that an individual needs to have a vacation from reality. For children, many situations are being experienced for the first time. This can become overwhelming for some and the drug or alcohol option could provide reprieve to the situation. Children don’t have the benefits of experience to fall back on and could become addicted to the sensations drugs and alcohol can provide. A child cannot raise him or herself and they do require the wisdom of someone who can help them through trying times.
Feeling overwhelmed, confused, angry, scared and guilty are all perfectly normal feelings for both you and your teen. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence number one recommendation for parents is to “Take an Active Role in Your Child’s Life.” As the main thing you need to do as parents to be effectively involved in preventing alcohol and drug problems for children.
4. In the Media – A study completed in 2003 showed children between the ages of 12 and 17 were more likely to use marijuana by six times and five times more likely to drink alcohol if they watched at least one “R” rated movie per month. What the study doesn’t show is how often the parent is involved in the child’s life and decision making. Raising a child to respect the difference between fiction and reality could skew those results. An eight-year-old who is taught the difference between fantasy and reality is less likely to have nightmares regarding movies and television shows. Could this style of parenting influence the decisions of children in regards to alcohol and drugs?
Your skills as a parent have a great influence in how your child reacts to specific stimuli. Although you want them to find their own paths as they develop, you shouldn’t stand back and watch them make profound mistakes. It’s your responsibility to root out problems and control the situation before it gets out of hand. It’s your role to guide them into being a productive member of society, not their friend. Children will abuse drugs and alcohol for the same reasons adults do. However, the children can benefit from the parent stepping in and getting to the heart of the problem that is causing the behavior in the first place.
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.