As parents, one of the hardest things you’ll have to face is watching your teens grow up and make decisions for themselves. This is particularly difficult when it comes to experimenting with drugs, but you have to trust that you’ve done a good job of equipping your kids with all the knowledge and support to make the right decisions. And if you want to make sure that you’ve done everything you can to prevent your teenagers from trying drugs, then here’s a list of things you can do to prepare them.
1. Talk About Common Reasons for Drug Use
Teens don’t always experiment with drugs because they’re bored or pressured: there are often many other factors at play. By talking with your teen about these factors, you can provide other solutions to problems. For instance, many teens turn to drugs to cope with stress, anxiety, and mental health issues. To prevent this, talk to your teen about these things and healthier treatment and support options.
2. Communicate, Don’t Lecture
No teen needs or wants another lecture from an adult, and you’ll be able to get your teen more engaged if you have a two-way conversation. Explain the realities of drug use, be very clear about your expectations, and lay out the consequences you’d enforce. Be open to talking about the subject, allow your child to ask questions, and be prepared to offer honest answers.
3. Personalize the Discussion
One of the best ways to engage a teenager is to put things into relevant terms. Your teen likely feels invincible, and won’t be receptive to a discussion about the health effects of drugs. But your teen likely has goals and plans for the future and explaining how drug use and drug treatment would impact those aspirations might be much more impactful.
4. Spend Time Together as a Family
Not only is this good for the family as a whole and the individual members, but it’s also a way for you to keep apprised of what’s going on in your teen’s life. If your family spends time together regularly, you’ll be able to keep a better eye on your teen, be more apt to notice behavioral changes, and you’ll help keep the lines of communication open.
5. Encourage Alternative Pastimes
While it’s not the only reason, boredom definitely can contribute to drug use. But by helping your teen stay active and busy with other things, you’re reducing the opportunities he or she will have to try drugs. Sports, clubs or a family gym membership will help keep teens focused on other things.
6. Help Them Avoid Peer Pressure
Not many kids have the courage to say no to their friends, but it’s a lot easier to say something like, “I can’t: my parents give me regular drug tests.” Help your teen stay strong in the face of peer pressure by providing a number of such answers.
7. Talk About Drug Portrayals in the Media
The media—including movies, television shows, books, and music—has been guilty of glamorizing drug use, and it’s important that your teen is aware that these representations aren’t accurate. Talk to your teen about how drugs really affect life, health, relationships, and jobs.
Preventing drug use in teenagers isn’t just important because of the health effects, but also because each experience with drugs can increase the chances of addiction and seeking drug abuse treatment. To reduce the chances that your teen won’t experiment with drugs, be open and honest, encourage communication and dialogue, schedule lots of family time and extra-curricular activities, and be realistic with your teen about the true consequences of drug use in ways that will resonate with his or her own personal goals and dreams.