“One of the most important things we adults can do for young children is to MODEL the kind of person we would like them to be.”
-Carol B. Hillman
As a parent or caregiver, you play a vital role in influencing your child’s choices around the use of alcohol and other drugs. Research shows that children whose parents are involved in their lives – hold regular conversations, attend after-school events, and listen to their problems – are less likely to drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs. Your words and your example can make all the difference in your child’s life. Parents should set clear rules of “zero tolerance, zero-use” that insist on abstinence.
If you suspect your child is abusing drugs, you should talk to your child, a substance abuse disorder counselor, and/or your child’s school counselor for confidential assistance. Consider contacting a community agency or treatment facility to perform a substance use disorder assessment.
You can find the community resources list here:
Don’t Put Off Talking to Your Children about Drugs
Parents need to point out the dangers of alcohol and other drug use repeatedly as their children grow up. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers the following tips for talking with your children about alcohol and other drugs. While nothing can guarantee that your children will grow up drug-free and trouble-free, establishing open and honest communication is one way to help build their resilience so they can better withstand the pressures of peers and society, and make responsible choices. Follow these tips for communicating with your children about drugs:
Listen. When you listen to your children, they will learn to be better listeners and will try harder to clearly express their thoughts and feelings. By attentively listening to children, you convey respect and concern.
Be flexible. You can’t force a child to communicate with you. Some children are more comfortable talking when they are in the car or doing dishes, rather than sitting across from you, face-to-face, with talking as the sole task at hand. Stay flexible and take advantage of the opportunities whenever and wherever they arise.
Be positive. If most of your messages to your children are negative (like “Stop running in the house”), they may feel communication isn’t worth it because they’re always getting criticized. It is important, however, for children to know your rules and limits, and that there will be consequences if they break the rules.
Talk about your feelings. Talk about your own feelings. When doing so with your children, it helps to say, “I feel because ,” which links emotions to thoughts and helps convey the reason for the feeling. Presenting your feelings this way also models clear communication to your children.
Establish clear rules and consequences. Set clear limits regarding alcohol and other drug use (including tobacco) and communicate these expectations regularly with your children, focusing on their overall health and safety. If your message is inconsistent, your children may decide to create their own standards.
How you can be a part of the solution
Here are three simple steps from CLEAN, Inc. to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs.
- USE AS PRESCRIBED (Set the example for your kids and don’t share medications or take a drug without having a prescription for it yourself.)
- LOCK THEM UP (Keep your prescription medicine in a secure place, and count and monitor the number of pills you have.)
Lock Up Your Meds
- DISPOSE OF (Get rid of any unused or unwanted prescriptions.)
Drug Take Back
Parents, family members, caregivers can play a critical role in safeguarding children through good communication, paying attention and observing changes in behavior, and offering steady love and support. It is never too early to start the conversation. Why not begin today by having a discussion with your child about prescription drug abuse and misuse.