Drug use during teenage years doesn’t necessarily mean a child will become an addict, but it does negatively affect their thinking and their behavior. And when young minds are not clear and informed, the result can be teenage pregnancy, auto accidents, and failing grades. According to the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, “13 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders, and 40 percent of 12th graders say they have used a drug at least once in the past year.” So how can parents in Fresno California help prevent drug abuse (including tobacco) in children of all ages?
Well, parents can be a powerful influence in guiding children to make good choices and choosing good friends. Here are some ideas that support honest and open communication that can help children develop into healthy adults.
Parents Can Lay a foundation in preschool
Parents must take an active role in their children’s lives to help instill drug addiction awareness and prevention at every stage of development. For preschoolers, avoid letting them watch television programs that glamorize drug use of any kind. Even though they are only 2-4 years old, they know about taking drugs, because they’ve taken medicines and daily vitamins. Other tips include:
- Discuss they should only take medicines given by parents or family
- Show and tell about the medicines they see you take at home
- Enforce that some medicine is bad and too much medicine is always bad
- Talk about the importance of being healthy and not smoking or drinking too much
Connecting with elementary school children
Elementary-aged children notice everything around them, while at the same time they may seek a lot of attention. These curious ones have already taken note when and if they’ve seen anyone drinking alcohol or smoking drugs. This is a great time to connect with your child about avoiding risky behaviors:
- Emphasize that the pills in the medicine cabinet are not for them
- Allow this age group to make plenty of self-guided decisions – like picking out what clothes they will wear each day
- If a substance abuse message appears on TV, talk about the consequences on the person
- This is not too early to explain the difference between illegal drugs and medications
Honest communication with preteens
As we’ve already noted, this group of 9 to 12-year-olds are now at the age of initial drug experimenting. This could be sipping left-over wine or smoking cigarette butts found in ashtrays. As middle schoolers start their shift to independent thinking, it is critical to clear up any confusion or misinformation about drug use and abuse.
- Separate fiction from reality when watching movies or shows depicting drug use
- Know your children’s friends and their parents especially regarding supervision
- Discuss feelings of insecurity or peer pressure that can lead to drug experimentation
- Set clear rules about drug, cigarette, or alcohol use, and follow through with consequences
Be clear and consistent with teenagers
Unfortunately, children aged 13 to 18 years old are the ones likely to progress towards a problem that requires addiction treatment or drug rehab. This is a pivotal age where you need to directly discuss smoking, vaping, drinking, and drug use with your children. Teenagers need to understand, no matter how common these behaviors are in school and at play, they are not acceptable behaviors for a healthy life. Here are ideas to kick off drug prevention discussions with teenagers:
- Acknowledge that this is a time for fun with friends, but discuss the negative ramifications that can last a lifetime
- When your teen starts hanging with a new group, invite them over to meet them
- If your child smells like tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol, don’t ignore it – set boundaries and consequences
- Always make it crystal clear that you disapprove of drug use and/or drinking
- Remind your child of all those wonderful traits that make them special, and of which drug use can destroy
For any and all age groups, it is always acceptable to talk about the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. Drug and alcohol abuse will destroy lives, dreams, relationships, jobs, reputation, families, and finances. Take any opportunity you get to strike down wrong beliefs such as “everybody drinks!”, “vaping is safe!” or “marijuana won’t hurt you.”
If you’re concerned about drug or alcohol use by a child, call First Steps Recovery to learn how we can help in Fresno California with addiction treatment.