Addiction Prevention Tips for Parents
In addition to talking to your child, here are other addiction prevention strategies to try.
Be Active in Your Child’s Life
Be an active part of your child’s life. Take them to school or pick them up from school when you can and strike up a conversation while driving. Ask them about their classes and extracurricular activities. Attend their award nights, sporting events and school conferences. Have family dinner nights or take your child out for ice cream or a fast food dinner to talk about things going on in their life.
When you’re active in your child’s life, you can pick up on signals that something isn’t right. Trouble with school or friends can quickly spiral out of control for a young teen, so being there allows you to offer valuable support that steers your child away from drugs and alcohol. Make it a habit to be available to your child to talk anytime, about anything.
Know Your Child’s Friends
This is important. Get to know your child’s friends – their names, where they live, the activities they are involved in and so forth. You can learn a lot about other kids by talking to your child directly or including yourself in some conversations. There’s no reason why teens and parents can’t connect – you’ve been down this road before, after all.
Also, make your home a friendly place where your child’s friends are always welcome (providing that they are respectful and follow the rules). Pushing your child and their friends out the door because you don’t want the commotion can leave them with no place to go. Your child’s friends may not have any place to go either. Making your home available keeps things safer for all.
Support Positive Achievements
By being active in your child’s life, you can be there to support their positive accomplishments. Support good grades, participation in sports, helping others, etc. People of all ages thrive off recognition. You may embarrass them as you cheer, but they will know that you care.
The more you recognize and support your child’s efforts, the more motivated they will be to continue making you proud. In other words, they won’t want to let you down with bad behavior or poor choices.
Being your child’s top fan also builds self-esteem, another protector to addiction.
Teach Your Child Natural Consequences
Children need to learn the consequences of their actions and decisions now, before they become adults and are on their own. Too often, parents step in to “fix” the consequences that their child would have experienced. Unfortunately, this exhausts the parent and enables the child. Let’s look at an example.
John is a freshman in high school, and he continues to wake up late for school. When he misses the bus, his mother takes him to school and ends up being late herself. John’s mother is tired of fighting with John to wake up in the mornings.
One day, John’s mother decides she’s had enough. Without yelling, she tells John to wake up and make it to the bus on time or he will have to walk to school. Sure enough, John ignores his mother and goes back to sleep. When he wakes up, he’s missed both the bus and his mother. John has to walk to school and take an unexcused absence. From that day forward, John wakes up at the appropriate time.
Maybe this is a simple example, but it goes to show that letting kids experience natural consequences is not a bad or “mean” thing. It teaches responsibility and can encourage kids to make better decisions when being confronted with drugs and alcohol.
Have Mental Illness Diagnosed and Treated
A key motivation for using drugs and alcohol at any age is to self-medicate. If a teen is dealing with anxiety and doesn’t feel comfortable in social situations, he or she may drink and smoke marijuana to ease his or her symptoms.
Dual diagnosis is common and harder to treat than addiction alone. If you think that your child may have an underlying mental health disorder, such as bipolar depression, generalized anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, take them to the doctor to be properly diagnosed and treated.
A combination of lifestyle modifications, medications and alternative therapies can treat the symptoms and prevent self-medication.
Educate Yourself on Addiction
Many parents do not imagine that they will be affected by drugs and alcohol, especially if they did not use them themselves. Unfortunately, no one is immune to drugs and alcohol. It can take one bad decision, a natural curiosity or the need to self-medicate to start a lifelong addiction. Rather than believing that you will never be touched by addiction, make it your priority to be informed.
We recommend being aware of the signs of a possible drug addiction, such as changing friends, dropping grades and a loss of interest in activities. Sometimes, it’s not addiction causing these changes but something else, like depression or trauma. In either case, it’s important for you to be aware of these issues and have the opportunity to help your child.
Don’t be Afraid to Drug Test
If you do suspect that your child is using drugs, don’t be afraid to give them a random drug test.
It’s possible that something else is going on, but it’s also possible that your child is experimenting with illicit substances. We understand that this can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it can tell you the information you need to know.
Drug testing kits can be purchased online or from pharmacies for a low cost. Some parents choose to keep several on hand, especially if their child has had problems in the past. If a test does come back positive, be ready to talk to an addiction specialist who can guide you in the right direction.
Be a Good Adult Role Model
Finally, be a good role model for your child. You should never use drugs with your child. Some parents want to be “friends” with their teens, but this only causes confusion. Have clear expectations for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and stick to it. Rules and boundaries keep people safe, so teens and young adults need them whether they like them or not. They actually thrive knowing they have good set boundaries.
Also, take care of yourself in the way that you want your children to take care of themselves. Make healthy choices, respect others and hold your expectations high. Show through example that your child can be anything they want to be. Addiction may not be a choice, but experimenting with drugs and alcohol is. Remember, we lead more by example, than by lecture.