Substance abuse among teens is nothing to take lightly. From alcohol to prescription to illegal drugs, there are many temptations out there. What can you as a parent do to prevent your child from becoming involved in substance abuse? Here some tips that will help.
1. Teen Substance Abuse: Start By Educating Yourself
There’s a lot that parents should know about substance use among teens. It pays to be aware of signs, like a change in temperament, interests, dropping old friends in favor of new ones, and several other events. Understanding the signs of teen substance abuse allows you to take quick action if you notice your teen displaying any of them.
Parents should also be aware of the types of substances that attract the most attention among teens today. That includes understanding how substances may alter behavior, the potential damage to one or more organs, and even the effect on basic motor skills.
Educate yourself about how certain factors can increase the risk for substance abuse.
Some of the risk factors are:
- A pre-existing mental health disorder – A mental health disorder like depression or anxiety may lead to addiction.
- Trauma – If a traumatic event occurs and your teen is having trouble dealing with it, that may lead to seeking solace by using drugs or drinking alcohol.
- Environment – Even if you have a close relative who is dealing with an addiction, that may motivate your teen to follow in his or her footsteps.
2. Take a Good Look At Your Own Actions
What about your own actions and habits? Are you doing or saying something that sends the signal that a little indulgence is not a bad thing? If so, that needs to change.
If you drink alcohol, be sure that you set a good example. Limiting the amount you consume at any given time. There’s a difference between having a glass of wine with dinner and drinking an entire six-pack in a matter of an hour. Pace your drinking if you go to a party so you are still sober when you return home to the kids.
If you are on any prescription medication, never exceed the prescribed dosage. Make sure that you explain what side effects can happen if the medication is mixed with alcohol. Your goal is to lead by example and adjust your own habits so that your teen sees you exercising.
3. Open Communication Matters
It’s important that your teen be able to talk with you about anything and not feel judged. In like manner, you should be able to talk with your teen about anything. This type of open communication will go a long way toward helping your teen feel free to talk about issues they face at school or pressures associated with growing up. Remember to focus on the issue and not make it into a personal evaluation of your child. In many cases, frank discussions go a long way toward defusing any desire to experiment with drugs or alcohol.
4. Family Time is Important Too
While your teen’s time with friends is important, setting aside family time matters too. Watching a movie, playing a game, or taking a day trip somewhere are some ways to spend time together and still ensure everyone has their own social life too. The time allows your kids to be reminded they are important to the family unit. Those outings also provide you with a chance to notice if something is bothering your teen, or if there’s something different in his or her temperament.
5. Encourage Involvement in Adult-Supervised Activities
Sports, theater, and volunteering after school are all examples of adult-supervised activities that your teen can enjoy. They get to have a robust social life, meet new people, and in general have something that helps them be less inclined to try drugs or alcohol. Many of these activities build self-confidence. Something that also allows your teens to not see any need for abusing any type of substance.
6. Get to Know Your Teen’s Friends and Their Families
While you don’t necessarily have to become buddies with your teen’s friends or their families, it pays to know them well enough to have a pleasant conversation now and then. You can easily pick up clues as to how things work in their families. Also, what sort of ethics and values are present in their homes. It also provides a great network for helping all teens to find things to do other than experiment with alcohol or drugs.
7. Keep an Inventory of Prescription and Over the Counter Medications
While you want to trust your teen, that doesn’t mean remaining unaware of what might be happening at home. If you keep alcohol in the house, you may want to consider keeping a lock on it. You also should keep track of what’s in the cabinet. Be aware that it never hurts to taste the liquid in each open bottle from time to time to make sure it isn’t watered down.
The same goes for the medications in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Make sure you know what’s in there and how many pills should be present. If there’s anything that could be somewhat addictive, it would be better to keep it in a locked cabinet as well.
There are other things you can do to help your teen avoid getting involved with any type of substance abuse. Take the time to talk with a school counselor or a therapist today. Be aware of what the latest fad drugs happen to be and how they can be obtained. While you can’t shield your teen from being exposed to situations where drugs and alcohol are present, it is possible to ensure they have the support needed to say no.