Drugs, from illegal ones such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and right up to socially accepted ones such as tobacco and alcohol, are getting more and more easy to obtain for children, teenagers and minors.
According to DrinkAware, in 2016 44% of English children between 11 and 15 years of age said they had drunk alcohol at least once. Fortunately, thanks to progress in education and communicating the risks, these numbers are dropping every year.
Regardless, this continues to be a serious issue due to the life-changing implications of becoming a habitual drinker or drug user at such a young age.
So what should parents be doing to protect their children from alcohol and drug abuse?
It All Starts at Home
Psychology Today found that children of alcoholic parents experience such trauma growing up that the impact on their mental state is comparable to combat PTSD. Structure is so important in children’s lives that the uncertainty and lack of routine caused by alcoholic parents can be utterly devastating.
For non-alcoholic parents who are wondering how best to prevent their children falling into the cycle of drug abuse, the most important thing to be aware of is the example you set.
Responsible and thoughtful choices such as offering to be the designated driver so others can drink or making active efforts to avoid drinking and eat healthy can rub off on your children. In the same way, drinking on a daily basis and talking about how much you crave a drink is likely to increase your children’s chances of wanting to drink.
It’s also crucial to remember that the chances that your children will be offered alcohol while underage or drugs while still in school are extremely high, and the most effective way to stop them accepting it is having an honest discussion with them in advance.
Consider using the following tips:
- Discuss peer pressure with your child and how to avoid it, as well as how being “cool” in school is something that will become irrelevant as soon as you leave it, meaning making good choices for your entire life is better
- Help them to make good friends and choices, and take the opportunity to discuss alcohol and drugs with their friends too if it arises
- Explain that while you don’t want them to ever use drugs or alcohol, that if they ever do they should feel safe to discuss it with you and not be ashamed (putting across the opposite message just makes them more likely to rebel and less likely to keep discussing things with you)
- Most of all, spend time with your children while sober and teach them about how to enjoy life and make smart decisions in general
- Learn the negative effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and body, and use these in a way they can understand. For example, if they love playing football, talk to them about how alcohol addiction can lead to difficulty of breathing and would almost certainly end their sporting careers.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Do not use drugs or alcohol around your children – and if you’re an addict yourself, be sure to never use around them and get the help you need immediately – for their sakes as much as yours.
Another good way to keep your children off the wrong path is to find an enjoyable and healthy hobby to enjoy together, such as sports, jogging, arts and crafts, or any other activity that can give them an enjoyable routine and keep them from wanting to explore the less positive hobbies.
Why do Children Abuse Drugs & Alcohol?
The answer is that they are driven by the same genetic factors and curiosity as adults are, but the difference is they are also subject to peer pressure and less experienced in making serious decisions than we are.
Discussing positive decision making with them and the avoidance of peer pressure can help a lot, but if your family has history of drug or alcohol addiction, you may need to put a little extra effort into this, and discussing the horrible experiences family members went through because of this is likely to help.
Why Do Teens Use Drugs?
The answer to this question is very similar to the one above, but this is even more serious as teenagers are in a transitionary phase in which they are developing into the people they will be for the rest of their lives.
Teenagers of 17-19 are often resistant to advice, feeling that they are becoming an adult and are able to make their own choices without help. Becoming addicted at this age can lead to a life of addiction so it’s up to you to speak to them as honestly as possible about this and get professional help if you think they may have a problem.
In order to give your children the best possible chance in life, consider following these steps:
- Give them regular attention and love, especially undivided attention focused on them
- Read up on alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and be on the lookout for any warning signs
- Be aware of their whereabouts at all times, at least until they are too old for this to be reasonable
- Don’t be afraid to discuss drugs openly and lay down the rules – acting like they are something to avoid talking about will just make them feel less comfortable discussing them with you.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol dependency, we offer the most effective Home Detox programmes and our friendly, expert staff are ready 24/7 to give you advice – just call 0800 118 28923.