So, you have a teenager and you’re wanting to make sure you keep your teen away from the drug scene. Why wouldn’t you want that?! Teens want to fit in with their peers and many of them are experimenting with drugs, perhaps at an even younger age. Teens usually have a bit of money in their pockets, and alcohol and cigarettes are fairly inexpensive to purchase.
As we may remember from our own, teen years are challenging – for everyone involved! For many kids, these challenges can seem overwhelming. Teens, in high school, are pressured to get and maintain good grades, get involved with extracurricular activities, later they feel pressure to go to college…. They also want and need a social life, and they are wondering what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, as they get very close to adulthood.
Then there’s peer pressure, bullying, ridicule, and parents add to the pressure a teen may feel. So do family problems. There may be parental substance use going on. So do teachers add to a teen’s stress unintentionally. In the current environment, as if all of this were not enough, there are even more mental health challenges arising.
It’s not surprising that many teens decide to self-medicate and escape from all the stress. Many teens use performance enhancing drugs, stimulants, to feel like they can meet the expectations of everyone. Also, kids being naturally curious, may want to know first-hand how it feels to be on drugs, alcohol, and other drugs.
You, as a parent, have many options to help prevent teen drug use (although there is no completely foolproof way).
*Know where your teen is and what your teen is doing at all times.
*Establish rules with reasonable consequences and be prepared to enforce these consequences. Parents, be on the same page about this – present a united front.
*Know your teen’s friends.
*Keep track of all prescription drugs.
*Have open dialogs with your teen about drug use. Find out your teen’s opinions.
*Discuss reasons not to use drugs.
*Consider your teen’s exposure to media messages.
*Discuss ways to resist peer pressure.
*Be open about your own drug use. And remember, you are a very strong role model.
*Know the warning signs of teen drug use, like sudden changes in moods, friends, eating habits, sleeping, etc.
*If you suspect your teen is experimenting, talk about it and encourage honesty.
*Put your focus on the using behavior; don’t make it about being a certain type of person.
*Check in regularly with your teen.
We could go on and on. A wonderful resource is the Search Institute and their 40 Developmental Assets model (searchinstitute.org). Be informed about all the latest research which can help your teen thrive. And don’t forget to take a cold, hard look at the style in which you parent – this can make a huge difference in whether your teen takes the slippery path to drug use … or not.
If you are doing everything you can and your teen still falls into the trap of substance use, no self-recriminations please! Just go get help for your teen and engage the family with this.
And, of course, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
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