Drug abuse is so widespread in our culture that we can’t expect to isolate our kids from exposure to it. But we can take steps to reduce the risks. Here are a few ideas:
Model good behavior. Remember that if you drink or smoke, your kids are likely to follow your example. Be aware of the contents of your medicine cabinet and take a close look at any unexamined tendencies you may have to medicate your emotions with legitimate drugs.
Build drug-resistant attitudes in your kids. You can do this by
- creating an environment that balances love (nurture) and limits (structure),
- expressing strong disapproval of drug and alcohol use,
- instilling respect and awe for the God-given gift of a healthy body and mind,
- helping your children become students of consequences,
- building a positive sense of identity within your family,
- encouraging church-related activities that build a meaningful personal faith.
Talk with your kids about drug abuse. Keep the lines of communication open. Pay a weekend visit to a local emergency room for a close-up look at the results of teen drug abuse. Offer thoughtful and constructive commentary when you and your child see someone smoking pot or drinking.
Seek out trustworthy adult mentors. Get to know your child’s teachers, coaches, and the parents of his friends. Encourage him to form strong connections with healthy role models.
Create consequences for unacceptable behavior. A heart-to-heart conversation might be sufficient for a first-time drug- or alcohol-related offense. If warnings go unheeded, you will need to move on to substantial consequences, such as loss of driving, dating, or phone privileges.
Be realistic. If a problem arises, face it squarely. Then get on with the task of helping your child. There’s nothing to be gained by wallowing in guilt.
If you find your teen is already abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s a good idea to get professional counseling as a family. The most successful treatment programs take a family systems approach that involves intensive evaluation and a series of counseling sessions offered in an environment of community and accountability.
A list of items commonly associated with the preparation, storage, and use of drugs would include
- rolling papers,
- plastic baggies,
- aluminum foil,
- pill bottles,
- small glass vials,
- empty aerosol containers (spray paint, household cleaners, etc.).
Clearly, we can’t be too vigilant in this area. If you have reasons to believe that your teen may be abusing drugs or alcohol—or if you suspect that she may be moving in that direction—it’s time to “parent up!”
Don’t be afraid to confront the situation positively and decisively. Without blaming or shaming, ask your teen directly if she’s ever been tempted to engage in substance abuse. If she says yes, take the bull by the horns. Make up your mind to be a source of unconditional love, compassion, and support. The life you save could be your own child’s.