If you're a
parent, you've likely worried -- or may someday
worry -- that your children will use drugs. You
may even hope against hope they don't start.
But hope alone
can't ease that concern. Talking can.
Right now is a
good time to take up the topic and start your
kids on the road to some good decision-making.
Parents have more influence than they realize
over whether or not their kids will use drugs.
According to the
National Institute on Drug Abuse, children who
learn about the risks of drug abuse from their
parents or caregivers are 36 percent less likely
to smoke marijuana, 50 percent less likely to
use inhalants, and 56 percent less likely to use
So how do you
start the conversation? Parents may be cautious
about not pestering their children. But
educating your children about drugs and alcohol
is not pestering -- it is parenting.
the timing. What is the appropriate age to
introduce the topic of drugs and abuse? It may
surprise parents that discussions probably
should start as early as elementary school. Kids
get information early and often from many
sources. They also repeat what they see and
hear. Your own use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol
will not go unnoticed.
discussion is not sufficient. Keep the topic on
your kids' minds -- all the time. Ongoing
discussion from elementary school all the way up
to high school graduation and beyond is optimal.
Second, keep the
facts handy. Children need to know what's true
and what's myth about drugs. For example, the
physical effects of inhalants can include
hearing loss and damage to the central nervous
system, brain, liver and kidneys.
When it comes to
alcohol, consider this: alcohol is the leading
cause of depression. It can also increase risk
of heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure
and many other medical problems -- even
cirrhosis of the liver. And mixing can be
harmful -- even fatal. More than 150 medications
can interact harmfully with alcohol.
that talking alone is not enough. Be involved
with your children's lives. Praise good behavior
and let your children know how much they are
loved and valued. Set limits with clear rules
and consequences for their actions.
Know what your
children are doing, get to know their friends
and be aware of how they are spending their
time. Even if your children do not like you
keeping close tabs on their activities, do it
anyway. It is merely good parenting.
Children are more
likely to be tempted to use drugs and alcohol
when they are not feeling good about themselves.
Be alert to how your children's moods and keep
communication lines open at all times. If you
notice any changes in your child's behavior,
choice of friends or a downward trend in their
grades, take action. Question your children
about what is going on. Talk to their school
counselor and other adults who have contact with
them such as a youth group leader or soccer
coach. If a drug problem is established, get
professional help as soon as possible.
While nothing is
foolproof, talking with your kids about the
dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse can go a long
way toward helping them make good decisions. It
also arms them with information they can pass
along to their friends, too.