Believe it or not, parents have a major influence on whether or not their teenagers will start abusing alcohol or drugs. In fact, only 25 percent of teenagers in the United States report that their parents talked to them about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Kids who have the talk with their parents are more than 40 percent less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
While many parents feel helpless against the outside influences that entice their kids to get involved with alcohol and drugs, they can be an inside influence to help them avoid these dangers.
Why do teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol?
The teenage years are full of insecurity. Most kids at this age have a strong desire for social acceptance. Others feel invincable and indestructible and think that drinking and taking drugs can’t really hurt them.
Other risk factors include:
- A family history of substance abuse
- A mental or behavioral condition, like depression, anxiety or ADHD
- A history of aggressive or impulsive behavior
- A traumatic event or series of events, like a car accident or being the victim of physical or emotional abuse
- Academic struggles
- Friends who abuse drugs
What can a parent do?
Your number one weapon is communication. Talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs. Don’t lecture. Ask for their opinions and questions. When discussing reasons not to use or drink, stick to things they’ll care about: how drug and alcohol abuse can affect their ability to participate in sports or drive, or damage their appearance.
Other helpful hints:
- Have conversations about media messages, and how some TV shows, songs and movies glamorize or trivialize drug use.
- Brainstorm ways to resist peer pressure. Help your kids figure out how to be comfortable saying no if they’re offered a drink or a drug.
- Only share what you feel is important or helpful. Many parents worry about what they’ll do if their children ask them about their own past drug or alcohol use. You can be honest, but don’t feel you have to share everything. If you chose not to drink or use drugs, explain why. If you did use them, you can share what the experience taught you.
Talking about drug abuse lets your teen know your views and understand what you expect of him or her. You can also implement a few other preventive strategies:
- Know where your child is. Pay attention to where they are and who they’re with. Help them avoid situations where there is no adult supervision.
- Establish rules and consequences. For example, tell them that if they’re at a party where drug abuse occurs, they have to leave. Make it clear that they are not to ride in a car with a driver who’s been drinking or using drugs. Come up with strategies to help them get out of these situations safely, and agree on the consequences of breaking the rules.
- Know who their friends are. If your child’s friends abuse drugs or alcohol, your teen might be more tempted to try. Try to get to know their friends’ parents, too, and see what their attitudes are towards teenage drinking.
- Monitor your prescription drugs. Always know what kind of prescription and over-the-counter medications you have in your home, and don’t leave them where they can easily be found by your child or his/her friends.
Even if you have the best of intentions and plans, your child may get involved in alcohol or drugs. Please know that there are resources throughout Western New York which can help your entire family. Please call the Painkillers Kill HOPE line anytime, even if it’s just to get information at (855) 969-HOPE. We are available 24/7 to help.