The #1 reason kids do not smoke or use drugs is fear of disappointing their parents. You can be a powerful influence. You can set clear expectations and limits. You can be a supporter who encourages them to pursue their dreams and goals.
Here are 7 ways you can protect your child from alcohol and other drugs:
1. Talk Often With Your Kids
Fact: Kids who learn a lot about the risks of alcohol and other drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use.
- Have regular discussions from an early age, with consistent messages about the risks of alcohol and other drugs.
- Plan what you want to say for the appropriate age.
- Practice how you will respond to tough questions.
- Find teachable moments.
- Teach them how to turn down alcohol and other drugs.
Get more tips for talking with your child.
2. Be Clear About Your Expectations
Fact: You can build trust with your child by having clear and consistent rules.
Tell them it is not okay to drink or do drugs because:
- It‘s against the law.
- You’re still growing and your brain is still developing. Alcohol and drugs can damage your memory, your ability to learn, and can permanently damage your brain.
- Doing drugs and drinking when you’re a teen makes you more likely to become addicted, and can lead to desperate measures including committing crimes.
- You are more likely to make a bad decision when you are drinking or getting high, such as getting in a car, getting in a fight, or having sex.
- Kids who drink are more likely to try other drugs.
3. Be a Role Model
Fact: Kids imitate adults.
- If you drink, do it in moderation, defined as “the consumption of up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.”
- Never drink and drive.
- Don’t use illegal drugs.
- Use prescription drugs properly.
4. Be Involved In Your Kid’s Life
Fact: Kids are less likely to use drugs when they have relationships with caring adults.
- Listen to your child. Ask them about things they enjoy doing.
- Be empathetic about problems with friends.
- When your child seems angry or upset, start a conversation with an observation like “you seem sad” or “you seem stressed.”
- Have dinner together at least four times a week.
- Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.
- When your child is going to someone’s house, make sure an adult will be home.
- Encourage your child to call any time they feel uncomfortable.
5. Establish Rules and Follow Through
Fact: Parents’ leniency is a bigger factor in teenage drug use than peer pressure.
- Talk to your child about rules at a calm time. Explain the rules, for example what time they must come home, and the consequence for breaking the rule.
- Build a trusting relationship with respect and consistency. Reward good behavior.
- Follow through with consequences. Uphold your rules and rules set by the school and community. If your child is punished for breaking a rule, help them understand why, and discuss what they can do differently in the future.
Here are some responses to common excuses and arguments:
- “You’re the only parent who won’t let me…” (I am sorry you feel that way, but that is the rule in this house.)
- “I didn’t know I was supposed to be home at… “ (You do now.)
- “It’s not mine, I was holding it for a friend… “ (You’re still responsible.)
- “I swear, it was the first time I tried it… “(Bad things can happen on the first time.)
- “That teacher/person in charge is out to get me…“ (That is irrelevant.)
- “Why don’t you trust me? … “ (Your trust bank account is low right now. Here’s what you can do to make a deposit.)
6. Encourage Your Child to Work Hard in School:
Fact: Kids who perform well in school are less likely to become involved with alcohol and drugs.
- Encourage improvements in grades and in good work.
- Make sure your teen has a quiet place to do homework.
- Coach your child on effective ways to ask teachers for help and advice.
7. Support Your Child’s Involvement in Outside Activities:
Fact: Kids who pursue their interests and dreams are less likely to try alcohol and drugs.
- Community Service – Volunteering and getting involved in the community give a sense of purpose, and expand your child’s awareness of the world.
- Sports– Keeping active in sports provides physical, mental and emotional benefits, and keeps kids from getting bored.
- Art, Drama and Music – Creative expression and friends with common interests can help a child develop a talent and increase self-confidence.