With recent drug epidemics, including heroin and painkillers, parents and supportive adults are looking for ways to assist teens in curbing their drug use. They seem to be looking for ways to prevent drug abuse in children and adolescents. And at the same time, sadly, some parents are still in the dark when it comes to the risks that drugs pose to their children.
According to a 2009 federal survey, one in 10 children ages 12 to 17 use illicit drugs on a regular basis. However, according to Dr. Joseph Lee, Medical Director of the Hazelden Center for Youth and Family, an addiction treatment facility in Minneapolis, there are many simple steps that parents can take to prevent drug use in their teens. In fact, these are simple and effective ways that parents help their children avoid the pitfalls of addiction. They are listed below:
1. Tell Your Teens that You Disapprove: Teens who know their parents disapprove of drug use are less likely to use, and the opposite is true. When teens get the message that their parents do not care or that their parents approve, they will experiment and continue to use. If you want to help your teen avoid drugs, it’s best to let them know how you feel about drugs before they get to adolescence.
2. Have Your Teen Screened for Mental Illness: More than two-thirds of young substance abusers also have a mental illness. If you take your teen for a drug screening, be sure to have your child assessed for mental illness as well. Illnesses that are frequently seen in teens who have a co-occurring disorder include anxiety, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders.
3. Don’t Assume that Experimentation Is No Big Deal: Experimentation is a normal part of adolescence, but that doesn’t mean to ignore it. The truth is for some teens just one experimentation can lead to serious consequences. Although some parents think that there is nothing wrong with trying drugs or alcohol, it can in fact lead to car accidents, sexual assault, and serious overdoses.
4. Be Honest About Your Own Drug Use: Although parents are reluctant to tell their children about their own drug use thinking that it will prompt the same in their children, it’s actually better to be honest when teens ask. In this way, you can tell your children about the consequences. furthermore, teens will pick up on whether you’re withholding information. Your honesty helps to build trust and rapport.
5. Don’t Blame Yourself or Your Spouse: If your child has a drug concern, there’s no use in taking on the blame or pointing the finger. Instead of focusing on what could have gone right, make a plan to work with your spouse to support your teen in making the right decisions. And work with your teen on the steps ahead. This is especially true if your teen is in therapy. Pulling together as a team can help keep the family unified rather than allowing an addiction to divide.
6. Set a Good Example: Some parents believe that their teens are not paying attention. They are out with their friends, always in their room, and ignoring everything you say. Why would they be paying attention? However, adolescence is the time that teens are searching, and they are noticing behavior, speech, reactions, and choices that those around them make – including their parents. It’s best to model the kind of behavior you want from your teen.
The second part of this article series will provide the remaining tips for parents on how they can help curb substance abuse in their teens.
By Robert Hunt
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.