The only way parents can prevent their children from eventually becoming addicts or alcoholics is to keep them away from drugs and alcohol. Children, by nature, experiment within their environment, and parents must channel their children’s curiosity away from many dangers in life. The last line of defense between a child and the dangers of substance abuse is an involved and informed parent.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, research shows that children who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use.
While this page speaks primarily to parents interested in helping their children, the suggestions made here are just as applicable to other family relationships: a husband or wife who may be concerned about a spouse’s drinking or drug use can follow the guidance offered here. Even grandparents with concerns about a grandchild—or children worried about a parent—will find helpful information to determine whether their loved ones may be having difficulties with drugs or alcohol.
Many experts suggest that parents “monitor” their children, starting at an early age, so this practice becomes routine. In general, this means knowing where your child is at all times (especially during the 3:00 – 6:00 PM “after school” hours), knowing who your child’s friends are, and knowing what activities your child participates in. Children who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs.
Especially during the “tween” to teen years, continuing this practice of monitoring (so you know the “who, what and where” of your child’s daily life) becomes an effective tool in raising a healthy, responsible, drug- and alcohol-free young adult.
One way you can you help keep your child from abusing drugs or alcohol is to become his or her #1 source of honest and dependable information about the dangers of addiction. Let your child know you’re willing to answer questions, or simply talking about the subject, any time. To prepare yourself, visit your local library—or search online—for resources that will help you become more thoroughly informed.
Countless websites offer information on this subject. One excellent (and trustworthy) source is the U.S. government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at www.drugabuse.gov.
If you have concerns that your child may already be using drugs or alcohol, trust your senses. When your child comes home after being out with friends for a while, strike up a conversation. Your own senses will give you clues. You’ll smell alcohol, tobacco or marijuana on your child’s breath, during this face-to-face chat. The eyes also offer telltale signs: red, constricted pupils may be a result of marijuana use. Dilated pupils, that have a hard time focusing on you, may signal alcohol consumption.
Most parents develop a “sixth sense” about their children—a hunch that tells you “something’s up.” If you feel your child may be involved with drugs or alcohol, purchase an at-home drug testing kit (available at pharmacies or drugstores), and ask your child to take the test.
If he or she passes the test, you’ve probably done an excellent job of educating your child about the dangers of drug or alcohol experimentation. If your son or daughter fails—or simply refuses to take the test—this could be a sign of potentially serious problems.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Only you can determine what the best course of action should be, for you and your child. If you’re surprised by what you’ve learned, try to remember that your child is suffering from a disease, and needs appropriate help. You might want talk with your child’s doctor, school counselor, or another parent to find referrals for counseling or treatment. It may also be time to enlist a professional drug abuse counselor or interventionist. We can help. Just call us at 866-631-0026.