Illicit drug use among adolescents has increased steadily since the early 1990s. Children and teens in today’s society have easier access to alcohol, tobacco and drugs, meaning substance abuse starts even earlier in life than in past years. As adolescence is a time when many children begin experimenting with drugs, research shows that nearly 75 percent of teenagers have used alcohol or illegal drugs by 12th grade. As parents and teachers, you understand that your children are constantly battling peer pressure. This greatly increases the risk of your child getting involved with drugs in attempt to fit in. While your guidance and involvement in your child’s life regarding substance abuse won’t guarantee that they’ll stay clean and sober, you can help your child develop wise decision-making skills at an early age. Prevent drug abuse among adolescents by following these proven principles.
Children of all ages should be taught about the dangers of drugs, starting from an early age. Research shows that kids as young as 5 years old can understand the effects of drugs if taught in simple terms. As children grow older, the risk of them becoming involved with drugs drastically increases. Discuss the allure of substances like cocaine and marijuana to prepare your child for this reality. Explain that while the media may portray drugs as exciting or glamorous, substance abuse can cause hazardous and sometimes permanent physical and emotional problems. Mention the many dangers of substance abuse, such as mood swings, depression, allergic reactions, body tremors, and paranoia. Also talk about the effects that drug abuse can have on the user’s family and others. For example, you can talk about driving under the influence of drugs and the risk associated with drug-related traffic accidents. It’s important for children to understand that over time, they can become dependent on the substance and feel a physical and emotional need to take the drug, leading to physical, emotional and financial ruin.
Enhancing family relationships is a strong measure against substance abuse. It’s vital to be supportive of your children to help improve their self-image and confidence, which can help them go a long way towards staying drug-free. Discussing drug abuse with your children in a non-confrontational way is also an opportunity for family discussions regarding illegal and legal drugs. Parents must set reasonable rules regarding their child’s behavior and closely monitor what their kids are doing. Praise for good behavior and consistent discipline are also critical parts of helping your children become responsible decision-makers. Prevention against drug abuse should also be addressed by schools. Educators can discuss with children how drugs affect academics and how it can lead to early aggression, poor schoolwork and school dropouts. The school should also help children develop good peer relationship, communication, and drug-resistance skills. As many children do not know how to react in situations that involve drug use, play out multiple scenarios with your child. Warn your child that he or she will most likely experience pressure from peers to try dangerous substances. Explain that he or she has the power to say “no” to protect his or her body from the harmful effects of illicit drugs. Ask your child if he or she has any concerns or problems regarding alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and do your best to work through these issues in a calm and understanding way.
Whether you suspect that your teen may be experimenting with drugs, or you want to get your youngster on the right path to success, there’s never a bad time to begin teaching your child about drug abuse. Discussing drugs with your child in a concise and direct manner will open up a dialogue which can help your child better understand the dangers associated with drugs and the consequences drug abuse can bring.
For more information about the best ways to teach children and teenagers to resist drug abuse, visit the following educational resources designed for parents and educators:
- Talking to Your Child about Drugs
- Help Them Say No to Drugs
- Parent Talk Kit: What to Say about Drugs and Alcohol [PDF]
- Talking with Kids About Tough Issues: Drugs
- The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction
- How to Teach Your Child about Drugs
- Stay Involved in Your Teenager’s Life
- The Science of Addiction: Drugs of Abuse [Interactive]
- Keeping Kids Drug-Free
- Teaching Children to Use Medicines Safely
- Elementary Drug Prevention [PDF]
- Talk to Your Kids about Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs
- Talking to Kids About Prescription Drug Abuse [PDF]
- Talking with Children
- Protect Your Kids! Prescription Drug Abuse
- Ideas for Getting Started
- Drug Abuse Prevention Starts with Parents
- Parents: The Anti-Drug [PDF]
- Help Children and Teens Stay Drug-Free
- Time To Act: What To Do if Your Child is Using Drugs [PDF]