Drugs are a very real and frightening threat to kids. Parents and guardians must be aware of the danger that drugs represent to their kids regardless of where they live or what their socioeconomic background is. Being aware of the threat is not enough, however. Although parents should educate themselves on what the current drugs are and signs to look for, it is even more important that they take the right steps to keeping kids drug free. Prevention should begin at an early age and start with both their words and actions. Leading by example is fundamental, as is giving kids the knowledge and the tools needed to turn away from drug use.
Statistically, when parents communicate with their kids and educate them about drugs and drug use, kids are 50 percent less likely to use them. Talking is one of the simplest and the most effective steps that people can take in keeping kids clean and drug-free. By talking to one’s kids, parents or guardians are directly influencing decisions that the child will make about drugs. When parents do not speak to their kids about drugs, they are leaving it to outside factors such as other children, other adults, television, music, and even the Internet to educate and influence their kids on the subject. When discussing drugs, talk to kids with honesty and sincerity. Additionally, information that is discussed should be age-appropriate.
Talking About Drugs
Being drug free means being aware and knowledgeable. To talk with kids about this important topic, look for appropriate opportunities to bring up the subject. A good time might be while watching a movie at home or a television program that mentions drugs or if both parent and child witness someone behaving in a way that indicates that they may be high on some form of drug. These opportunities to express the family’s viewpoint on drugs can appear at any time. Parents or guardians can also plan to sit down with their kids and hold open discussions with them. These discussions should also convey what the family position is on drugs, find out what kids know or have experienced, and encourage open communication.
Discuss how drugs affect people both in the long and short term. Ask kids if they or anyone that they know of are currently taking drugs or have taken them. Avoid accusations, talking down to them, or speaking in anger. Parents should also discuss what may make kids feel as if drugs are necessary and review alternative ways to handle these feelings or situations. Encouraging kids to ask questions and express themselves is also an important part of talking about drug abuse. No matter how successful the initial conversation, one discussion is not enough, and it is important that the doors to communication always stay open.
Avoiding Peer Pressure
The biggest villain to being drug free is peer pressure. Peer pressure can be a strong motivator for kids to start using drugs. From children to teens, kids want to fit in and be liked by kids their own age. There are many ways in which kids can pressure one another into doing drugs, such as making fun of them, shunning them, or making them feel bad about themselves. This can be hard for youth who just want to fit in or want to be popular or retain friendships. Kids can avoid peer pressure when they realize that the people who are trying to pressure them into using drugs are not their friends. Friends won’t pressure friends to do things that are bad for them.
Adults can help kids build up confidence and encourage them to stand up for themselves and what is right. When encouraging kids to stand up for themselves, teach kids to be assertive, look the bully or person pressuring them in the eye, and say “no.” If all else fails, they should simply walk away from the person or the situation. Choose new friends, as there are other people to associate and make friends with who don’t use drugs and who won’t attempt to pressure them into using them.