As the summer comes to an end and the new school year begins, parents have growing concern for the increased exposure their children will have to peer pressure and outside elements. Discussions with your kids about substance abuse will differ based on whether you are trying to prevent them from starting to use drugs or alcohol, stop them from experimenting, or seeking help once they’ve developed a problem.
Here are some tips to help you “parent for prevention” by discussing drug or alcohol rules before your kids ever use.
Family Behavior Policies
Parents should express an appropriate level of concern about alcohol and drug use.
It’s important to spell out your expectations for your teens in terms of behavior in all areas, including drug and alcohol use, rather than waiting to bring up the topic after your teen has begun to experiment (most do) or after they’ve developed a problem. We suggest bringing the family together for a meeting. State your position on issues such as drug and alcohol use. Explain what is allowed and what is not. Then explain what the consequences will be when rules are broken. Your teen may not agree with you, but it is fair for you to ask them to follow these rules.
Family Together Time
Make time for family dinners as often as possible. It may seem challenging at first, but after a while, it will become routine and enjoyable. Take turns on who selects the menu. Make sure everyone helps prepare the meal and helps clean up afterwards. Use this together time to talk about your day, get updates on important issues (have they been offered drugs, etc.), and other recent events.
Unscheduled after-school and weekend hours are often the times when teens get into trouble. Keep your kids involved with enjoyable activities that keep them busy. If school, sports, or other standard activities are not appealing to your teen, think about volunteer opportunities. Volunteering or after-school jobs can provide young people with a chance to become more responsible, to be exposed to other adults, and to develop new skills and interests. Some families even look for opportunities for teens and parents to volunteer together, as a way to continue to build their relationship in a neutral zone. Let teens pick a setting that is interesting and important to them.
Be an Aware Parent
Show up to activities, even when they don’t expect it! When a peer group knows that mom or dad might show up, the kids who are using may be less likely to engage your teens. Make it a point to get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. If there’s going to be a party, call to see if a parent will bee home. Use Facebook or Twitter to help connect with other parents who want to stay on top of their teen’s activities.
Provide Teens with Easy Outs
Teens don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. So help them come up with “easy outs” when offered drugs or alcohol. Teach them excuses, such as “I can’t drink/use drugs because my parents do drug test” or “I can’t get high because I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and they might need a urine sample.: Other families have a “code” that teens can use when they are in an uncomfortable situation. For example, teens might tell their peers they have to check in with you and when they call you, could use a phrase suck as “But I’m not ready to come home yet,: to let you know that they are in an uncomfortable situation. This type of code would also make it appear to their friends that you are forcing them to come home, allowing them to save face while getting them out of the situation.
Remember: Substance Abuse is a Medical Concern
If you sense that your teen is experimenting or that their drug use is starting to escalate, seek assistance quickly. Talk to a counselor at your child’s school, a substance abuse counselor, or a youth clergy person. You run to the doctor if you think your child a has strep throat. Why shouldn’t you do the same for a teen who might be in the early stages of the chronic brain disease we know as addiction?
For more information, please call us at the Phoenix House 1 888 671 9392.