We’ve been getting quite a few requests lately – from the media and parents – on what practicial steps parents can take to keep their kids off drugs and alcohol.
As a non-profit organization dedicated to substance abuse prevention and education, Oregon Partnership has a primer of sorts we communicate to parents through our “Face It Parents” campaign.
1) Start talking and keep going because the biggest influence on your kids is you. The more parents talk to their kids about drinking and drugs, the less chance their kids will give in to peer pressure. Your kids may seem like they’re not listening to you, but they are. So talk early and often about the effects and dangers of alcohol and drugs. Educate them and start when they’re in grade school. And if your child brings up the subject, take advantage of the opportunity and continue the conversation. It’s not always comfortable for parents to talk to their kids about such things, but the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become.
2) Don’t think “not MY child.” We have found that most parents who discover their kids are into drinking and drugs are surprised, if not shocked. Every parent should assume their child is just as susceptible as any other child. When high school kids are surveyed about problems at their school, they often put alcohol and drugs at the top of the list. The good news is that most Oregon teens don’t do alcohol and drugs.
3) Set up explicit rules. Make it a family policy of sorts – that underage drinking and illegal drug use are not OK and won’t be tolerated anytime or anywhere. Meaningful consequences will result if they break the rules. This should be articulated clearly to your kids. We at OP stress this because more often than not, when kids get involved in drugs or alcohol, no firm rules have been established by parents.
4) Drinking in the teen years is NOT a right of passage. It’s against the law for a reason – actually for a lot of reasons. Recent research shows that if your kids start drinking before the age of 15, the chances of addiction as an adult is four times greater. And because teen brains are still developing, researchers will tell you that alcohol and drugs have a definite effect on your kids’ neurological makeup. This wasn’t known even a decade ago, but because of advances in brain imaging, it is now.
5) No drinking at home. Having your teens drink at home or somebody else’s home – as long as they’re not driving – is not OK. That’s because you’ve given them permission to drink anywhere or anytime. And if you allow them to have parties at your home, the research they will drink twice as much as those kids whose parents have a no-tolerance policy. Remember, kids drink to get drunk.
6) Marijuana isn’t what it is when you were in high school. It is the illegal drug of choice for teens, but according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the pot being sold across the U.S. is stronger and more addictive than ever. And medical emergencies involving the drug are up too.
For more information click on www.faceitparents.com – Pete Schulberg, Communications Director- Oregon Partnership