Posted by Michael Hixson on December 20, 2013
One day you’re holding your baby, and the next day he is a “tweener”. Ah, the pre-teen years. This is the time when children want to break loose from their parents and begin finding new friends, interests, and if not careful they may discover and experiment with marijuana. So, what can parents do to prevent their precious children from going down this road of substance abuse; be it alcohol, tobacco or drugs?
I have raised three children, and have been an informed parent. Informed meaning I continually have conversations with my children, and know who their friends are and where they are at all times. Early on, I stressed to my children that using drugs or alcohol can permanently damage their brain. In addition they can experience many health, emotional, and legal risks when using drugs, or alcohol. Having worked with pre-teens for a number of years in our church youth group, I learned quickly that this age group is the most impressionable. Preteens are looking for their identity, and if they are not mentored positively, they will find their identity within the wrong crowd. So, look for opportunities to casually sit down and talk with your children about these dangerous lifestyles, and always keep the door of communication open with them.
Some experts say, be honest with your children if they ask about your substance use experience. They say, you should tell them and explain why you wouldn’t make the same decisions today. As a parent, I don’t agree with that philosophy. I have seen time and time again, when parents are too open with their children about their past, it only seems to give the child the excuse to try it too. How many times have we heard children say to their parents, “ well you did it?” I think many parents fall under this pressure to share their dirty laundry with their kids so as not to be labeled a hypocrite. Don’t worry about that, you just need to be their parent. So, I suggest you tell your bad-luck story in a third person content. Your child needs to see that you know the bad effects of drug and alcohol abuse, but through your observation of others you’ve associate with. Keep your dignity and self respect as this will also enable you to keep your authority. There is a time and place to divulge your past life, but it is not to the teenager who is “finding himself”. Keep in mind that kids who try illegal substances before the age of 15 are over 2 times as likely to be dependent on them as adults compared to those who try them after the age of 18. So, your focus should be on steering them away from this behavior.
Keep your kids busy with outside activities. From the time my kids could walk, I had them involved in many activities such as soccer, swimming, piano lessons, gymnastics, and church youth group. We did a lot of running around throughout the school year and during the summer months. By being involved in all these activities, I seldom, if ever, heard my kids say they were bored. Boredom is one of the biggest reasons kids find cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol appealing. The summer months provide the most free time for pre-teens, thus if they are home alone during the day, and they are allowed to do as they please while you’re gone, you can bet they will choose to experiment with these substances. If your children stay home alone in the summer, give them responsibilities that need to be done while you are away. Keep them accountable. Look for summer camps that they can get involved in to occupy some of the days. Don’t let them roam the streets and neighborhood when you are away. If they are going to spend time with their friends, provide them with a cell phone so you can stay in touch with them. In addition, set a time limit your child can spend with their friends while you are at work. Never allow other children to hang out at your home when you are not there to supervise, instead encourage them to go to a home where a responsible stay at home parent is present.
You will want to seek out a substance abuse intervention if you notice your child’s eyes look red or bloodshot. Has her personality changed from bubbly to hostile or withdrawn? Is he getting in trouble at school while his grades have dropped or has he had a loss of ambition? If so, you may need to seek out an intervention. If you don’t, their abuse could lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders that could affect them the rest of their life. There are many local social intervention programs available in either your city or county. In addition, there are drug abuse boot camps that your child can attend. Whatever method you choose, please do your research first. Identify your child’s behavior to know what’s best for them. Don’t send them away to a boot camp if you haven’t at least sought local counseling first, as you may do your child a disservice. In any intervention program, learn about their success rate, and look for programs that only serve kids, and provide rewards to the child for their work in abstaining from the substances they are abusing.
After Treatment, Then What?
Regardless of the intervention treatment, once professional help has expired, it is up to you, the parent, to be constant and consistent. Constantly know the business of your child and consistent in that you mean what you say. It may be wise to enroll your child in another school to keep him from bad influential friends. In any case, keep up with who they are hanging out with and what they are doing. Remind them that you will take privileges away if they decide to continue the risky behavior. Stick to your word. On the other-hand, be sure to reward your child as they continue to progress towards living a long and healthy lifestyle.