As a high school teacher, unfortunately I am well aware that the majority of teens experiment with alcohol and drugs at some point from middle school to high school. Unfortunately, most teen often don't see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. Regardless of the programs and efforts made by public education, teens also have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience. Parents talking to teens can make a difference, even when it doesn’t seem that way. If you have a teen or pre-teen in the house, try these steps early on.
- Start at an early age. While it is important to have an ongoing dialogue with your child at any age, it is best to teach your child to make good choices early. Helping your child with positive values can prevent him or her from making negative choices later.
- Set limits and make the rules clear about drug and alcohol use. Praise your child for following them, and be consistent about the consequences if he or she disobeys.
- Make sure your child knows that you are a safe person to come to for help. If your child feels you can be trusted, the more likely he or she will turn to you when help is needed. Make sure your child knows you will always be there, no matter what.
- Be honest. There are so many reasons why young adults should not take drugs or alcohol, but “because I said so” is not one of them. Tell your child about the risks that come with taking drugs and alcohol. While a teen may try drugs or alcohol because they seem like “fun” at the time, make sure your child is fully aware that his or her actions have consequences.
- Remind your child that even prescription drugs can be abused. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many teens consider narcotic pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by doctors. Let them know that even doctor-prescribed medications can lead to addiction.
- Know where your child is and who he or she spends time with, even when you’re not around. Communicate regularly with your kid’s friends and their parents.
- Model a healthy lifestyle. Many teens are introduced to drinking or smoking through their parents.
Watch for red flags of drug or alcohol abuse, including new sets of friends, run-ins with teachers or police, drop in grades at school, skipping classes, or carelessness about grooming. If you suspect your child has a problem, don’t wait to get help. Good luck!