How To Raise Drug-Free Teens (page 3)
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.
What about when one parent is an alcoholic or inappropriately uses alcohol or drugs? What can the other parent do?
Get help -- there should be no question about this. Remember that teens follow examples better than they follow preaching. You want them to see that this is not right. Separate the drinking behavior from the sober behavior -- "Mom is a nice person who drinks too much!" Don't make excuses for her. You must confront her and talk about the effect on the children. Explain that she needs professional help. Then insist that she gets it. Give an ultimatum.
Don't force your children to be around a parent, relative or anyone when they are uncomfortable with his or her behavior. Don’t make them hug or kiss them just because they are family. This is very important, because you want them to learn that they can and should walk away from a person who uses drugs or alcohol inappropriately.
We are always talking about Role modeling at home. What about cooking with alcohol?
Most alcohol dissipates when you cook, so the amount is minimal -- most is just alcohol flavor. If the recipe calls for it, that is appropriate use. If you choose not to use it at all, there are many substitutes you can use -- broth, vinegars or water. Tell your children why you choose not to use it.
What if your kids ask you if you smoked marijuana When you were younger -- and you did? Should you lie?
This is a tough one, and there is no “right” answer. Some say you should never lie. Explain the difference between the purity of the 60's and the 90's. Then it was weaker and cleaner. Now it is big business, and there is a lot of harmful filler in the supply today. Plus, the character of the individuals involved then was less risky -- now profit is the main goal, not "peace and love." But be forewarned -- once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t go back.
Other parents feel it is ok to lie about it if there is absolutely no chance that the child will find out, because some children will think that what is ok for the parent is ok for the child. Parents have to decide what will work in their family.
Call Family Service at (402) 553-3000 or (877) 553-3001 for more information on parenting teenagers.
Reprinted with the permission of the Heartland Family Service. © 2008 Heartland Family Service
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