Teenage drug problems can strike any family at any time. All parents are aware that children will be faced with many dangers and problems as they go through puberty and the dreaded teenage years. Whilst ‘control’ is impossible, diligent and well considered parenting will help the whole family. Drugs and alcohol are huge dangers in the young adult years.
Parents are often caught off guard and unprepared when discovering their teenage child has started experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. Instead of relying on a purely reactive mode to counter this all too common revelation, it is recommended that parents implement a ‘preventative strategy’ to help reduce the likelihood of teenage drug problems escalating to regular abuse and full addiction or alcoholism status.
Such a strategy should include the following components:
- Increase parental understanding of the signs and symptoms of actual or potential substance abuse in their children. Learn about the substances popular with teens and research the effects, dangers and signs associated with teenage drug problems. The internet is full of useful research.
- Parents should improve communication skills with their children, encouraging frank, honest and open discussion about substance use. Communicate the information learned to help children make healthy choices. As teenagers’ awareness of evidenced dangers and risks of substance abuse increases, they may recall this information when pressured or tempted to experiment, and with luck, avoid teenage drug problems entirely.
- Improve overall ability to communicate with children, as follows;
a – Active Listening: One of the best ways to find out what is going on with teenagers is to carefully listen to them. Although ‘just listening’ sounds easy, listening effectively can be a very active process. When teenagers (and people in general) feel that they are really being heard, they are more likely to communicate their thoughts and feelings, allowing teenage drug problems to become evident sooner.
Probably the hardest thing about active listening is refraining from trying to solve your kids’ problems for them. Giving advice, telling them what you would do if you were in their shoes, or just sympathizing are all ways parents try to help. But when you just listen, you are giving your kids the message that you trust them to solve their own problems.
b – Practice Comeback Strategies: To help children deal with the temptations to use, it’s important to acknowledge that they will experience peer pressure to experiment using substances. Parents can help their children prepare for this by practicing ‘comeback statements’ that the child can use when pressured or tempted. Try to incorporate different strategies for different situations. A child responding to peer pressure using facts, humour or deflection is far safer than an unprepared child, and may be less prone to succumbing to teenage drug problems.
In summary, when parents establish an open dialogue with their child, and provide facts about dangers and effective prevention, they not only help stave off potential drug and alcohol abuse, but also become a resource for future problem solving on many levels. Read more about family addiction problems, and the benefits of addressing the issues early.