As I prepare for the Youth Drug Summit “A Community Conservation on Drugs” for the Flower Mound, Highland Village and Lewisville area, I want to share these parenting tips, my thoughts on the important role parents play during the turbulent teen years, and how imperative it is for parents to join with your teen so together both teen and parent can “Keep Them Safe.”
The single known antidote — the only secret weapon that has consistently proven capable of disarming all known triggers of substance abuse — is the artful application of PARENTING
Prevention Made Simple
The best defense against substance abuse is the creation of an intrinsic belief system, starting around age 3. Once in place, this belief system will shield your child in a way that no lecture, no punishment and no incentive based technique ever could.
All kids are different, as are all parents, but there is one identical masterpiece that every family should seek to paint together before their child reaches the age of 15. The secret masterpiece is a child who truly believes that substance abuse is wrong, and “believes” that it is a threat to their future.
FOLLOW THESE TIPS
- Be there for your teen when s/he needs to get out of a bad situation. Peer pressure is hard to deal with for every teen. You can help your teen deal with saying no to drugs to their peers by being the scapegoat: “I can’t do that, my parents would kill me!” Or be the parent who will pick up your teen without repercussions if s/he finds the party they’ve gone too has drugs available or their date has been drinking.
- Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents on a first-name basis. Want to know what your teen is up to? Ask their friends. They may not share everything, or much of anything, but you will get a general idea if there are any risk-taking behaviors going on just by how the other teen acts. This is especially true when you get to know your teen’s friends. You will also have stronger support for keeping your teen from taking drugs if you know your teens friends’ parents well enough to use their first name. Building a relationship with them, casual is fine, will give you a leg up if you ever find your teen is doing drugs.
- Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your teen, call and leave notes. Have another adult supervise your teen or sign them up for an after school program. If these things aren’t possible, establish a routine for your teenager and keep them busy during this time. After-school hours are the single most important time to know where your teens are and what they are doing, as statistics show 3 p.m. through 5 p.m. is a choice time for teens to use drugs. You can prevent your teen from doing drugs at this time through supervision.
- Talk to your teen often about drugs. Use ice breakers from television shows or the radio in the car. Remember these are conversations, not lectures. And don’t be afraid to bring up the topic of drugs. Kids as young as preschool are taught about drug use in school in positives ways. Your teen knows all about them by the time they get to middle school or high school. When you open the topic of drugs up in conversation, you are letting your teen know that you are available if they need to talk, which is an excellent way to prevent your teen from taking drugs.
- Get your teen involved in extra-curricular activities. Schools offer sports or clubs and community organizations offer classes and youth groups. These will help them mold their identity in a positive way and give them less time doing nothing and becoming bored. Studies have shown teens that have less time to just hang out and spend more time in organized activities are less likely to do drugs.
- Ask questions when your teen makes plans to go out. Who will they be with, where are they going, what will they be doing, etc. Then check up on them. Call other parents and do this together. Teens who think they will get caught will be less likely to do drugs.
- Be a role model. If you drink, drink responsibly – and don’t ever use illegal drugs. You may think that your kids don’t know that you are using, but they do or they will find out eventually. If you do take drugs, seek help and show your teen that you are taking responsibility for your actions.
- Unite your family against drugs using strong family beliefs. Establish that your family doesn’t use drugs. Not that you will shun your child should they make a mistake, but that your family believes there are other healthier ways to enjoy life and fix problems rather than escaping into a drug haze.