Submitted by Amanda G.
As a parent, one of your hardest jobs is going to be keeping your kids away from drugs and alcohol. This is the tightest tightrope you will ever walk; yes, even more fraught than talking to your kids about sexual activity. Why? Because the peer pressure surrounding drug use is often far more heavy than the pressure to engage in sexual activity.
At first blush that feels extreme, right? Surely the pressure is heavier than joining in on drinking or drug use? But as anybody who has ever been a teenager knows, lying about one’s sexual maturity and experience is relatively easy. It’s far more difficult to hide abstention when everybody is watching like a hawk to make sure a teen is “joining the party.”
It’s also important to note that “drug use” doesn’t just involve illicit substances like marijuana, ecstasy, or harder substances. Prescription drug abuse has soared over the last few years. This is particularly problematic if you have a teenage daughter because, according to the experts at www.sandysplace.com, women are prescribed drugs at a higher rate than are men.
So what can you do? How can you make absolutely sure that your teens don’t give in to the peer pressure they are sure to face?
- Accept Your Limitations
The very first thing you must do, if you hope to keep your kids away from drinking and drugs, is to accept that you will never be absolutely sure of anything… unless you stay glued to your child’s side 100% of their lives, you won’t always know exactly what is going on. And trust us, the more you hover and suspect, the more you are likely to push them into experimentation, not away from it.
- Set Clear and Firm Boundaries
It is essential that your kids know exactly what will happen to them if you find out that they have done something wrong. Having non-negotiable punishments helps kids understand what they are risking by lying, drinking, etc. Nebulous punishments are more likely to invite experimentation. But if, for example, your teens know beyond a doubt that they will lose phone and internet privileges (beyond supervised homework time) for an extended period of time if they come home smelling like alcohol (or worse), they are more likely to make smart decisions. And make no mistake: your teens need boundaries and structure just as much as they get older as they did when they were little.
- Be Open
Many of today’s parents grew up in an era where we were taught that things were either bad or good. Our own parents were told that being authoritative was more important than bonding and that parents should not try to be their kid’s friends. Most importantly, our parents were pressured to be examples of perfection.
To some extent, this is true. As a parent, you are in charge so you can’t always be your teen’s bestie. Even so, being open about emotions, pressures, life choices, etc. is the best way to keep your kids from hiding their experimentation from you. If you build a relationship in which your kids are encouraged to ask you questions because they know they will get honest answers, they will be more likely to simply ask you what drinking is like or what happens if they try a drug or if their friends are doing things that are making them uncomfortable.
- Busy Bees
Nobody is saying that every minute of your child’s day needs to be scheduled in advance. This is often counterproductive and will encourage your kids to rebel. Still, helping your kids find extra curriculars to keep them busy and engaged with something goes a long way toward keeping them on the straight and narrow. It also looks fantastic on college applications.
One of the best things you can do is have your teens volunteer in places where they will be confronted with people who have had to face the consequences of addiction. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, hospitals, etc. These environments will help teach them compassion as well as give them the opportunity to talk to those who can contradict the “no big deal” pressure they’ll get among their peers.
It is going to be difficult to set up a home with firm boundaries and open communication but trust us: that effort will be worth it in the long run.
Submitted by Amanda G.