How To Raise Drug-Free Teens
When do children start thinking about drinking or drug use?
Most kids have taken first drink by the time they are 11 or 12, usually with parental consent or in a setting where parents are present -- wedding receptions, family holiday dinners, etc. Drugs are readily available to junior high and even elementary age children. Kids are very influenced by examples at this age. Parents have less influence by talking than by providing good examples, so it's important for parents to think about how they drink or use drugs.
Many young people use drugs because their friends use drugs. At this age parents need to reinforce the child's motivation to avoid alcohol and other drugs. How do they do that?
Most kids get a lot of information at school about drug prevention, but it's mostly just description -- how the liver is affected, what the penalties are, etc. Teens need to understand the personal benefits of staying clean in relation to their day-to-day experiences. Talk about the realities of getting caught, or how it will affect the activities they participate in. They could get kicked off the team, or lose their competitive edge. Parents have to let teens know that they trust them, but the decisions they make now will affect their ability to get what they want. Help them make it their choice to stay clean.
As young people get older in high school, what do parents need to do to keep them from getting into drug or alcohol use?
Prevention means that drug and alcohol use is a topic of regular discussion in the home. Keep talking about it to continually reinforce the message. Stress the danger of drinking and driving. Do not accept any excuses. Make driving contingent on no drug or alcohol use, and don't hesitate even if there is just a suspicion. Be aware that certain kids are going to try it, so don't go crazy when you first learn about it. Be calm, loving and firm. Acknowledge that you know about it, that it is not allowed, that you will be alert, and that you are prepared to take steps to make it stop. Then watch for signs and follow through.
Reprinted with the permission of the Heartland Family Service. © 2008 Heartland Family Service
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