Welcome back to a new school year. A very important discussion that needs to take place in your home is the old drug talk. Parents play a key role in reducing teen substance abuse.
More than half of all Canadian kids will try drugs at least once between Grades 1 and 12, but many will choose not to experiment. Please talk openly with your child about substance abuse and set a no-use rule for all drugs and alcohol. Remember, with the advent of newer drugs like fentanyl talking to our kids about illicit drugs is more important than ever.
Here are some tips to help you steer your child in the right direction (www.samhsa.gov):
1. Recognize that this is your job. Don’t leave drug prevention to the school. Although schools have a responsibility for drug education, parents have the greatest influence on kids, and no one is better able to help them grow up drug-free.
2. Start early. Children as young as 10 are being introduced to drugs. Help your children form attitudes toward drugs early. If they know drugs are bad long before they’re offered any, it will be easier for them to say no when that time comes.
3. Keep it simple. Be firm and clear about what you believe and the behavior you expect from your kids. I see young people with severe drug problems who started out by trying alcohol or marijuana at a party, thinking, “How could it hurt me?”
4. Encourage personal responsibility. Self-reliance begins when kids take on some degree of responsibility — taking care of themselves, their toys and their clothing. Taking responsibility also firms up their sense of themselves and makes it easier for them to make choices about drug use.
5. Be a good role model. No matter what you tell children, behavior speaks volumes. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, and it’s likely they will, too.
6. Know how to handle your own substance abuse history. Be honest. If you abused substances in the past — tell your child the truth and why you stopped. If you are caught in a lie, your credibility on the subject will be lost.
7. Reason with your kids. As your children grow up, rules won’t be enough. They need reasons as well. Be prepared to talk with your children about the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs — and to talk with them, not just to them. Bring to these conversations lots of patience and a good set of facts about the risks, lifetime penalties and health consequences of drug use.
8. Listen. Listen to your child; encourage them to tell you what they think. Give your child time to complete his or her thoughts. Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what your child is thinking or is worried about.
9. Know your kids’ friends. Are the friends likely to try whatever is offered to them? Are they likely to be the one offering? It may not be your job to be their parent, but they will affect your child’s life.
10. Don’t worry. Taking a firm stand against drug use will not damage your relationship with your child. A loving relationship is the reward of parenthood, not the purpose. Most children will be grateful that you are clear and honest with them. Moreover, many kids are looking for a good reason to avoid trying drugs.
Doug Rogers is substance abuse prevention counsellor with the Vernon School District.