Help Your Children Stay Drug-Free
Parents play a variety of roles in
helping their children lead drug free lives. Parents who are willing to look
closely-at their own alcohol and other drug use, become knowledgeable about
substance abuse, and make living a drug-free lifestyle a significant child
rearing goal can and do make a difference in their children's lives.
One of the prevention roles you can
play for your children is the model you provide around your own use of
chemicals, including prescription drugs. Check to see if you're consistent in
your attitudes about drug-influenced behavior. For example, many parents are
outraged about driving intoxicated, but laugh at drunken behavior in a TV sitcom.
Because a primary purpose of
substance use is altering emotions, your kids need to know that having emotions
is normal, not wrong or scary, and learn how to express their feelings
appropriately. You can model the expression of feelings with "I"
statements about how another person's behavior effects you. A parent might say
"When I find fingerprints on the glass I've just cleaned, I feel
discouraged because it has to be cleaned again." Without blaming the
child, the parent is able to communicate his or her feelings about the
consequences of the child's behavior.
You can also use reflective listening
to teach your children how to express their feelings. Statements such as
"You feel sad because your friend-is sick and can't play with you,"
and "sounds like you're frustrated because I won't let you do that"
demonstrate your understanding of the child's feelings and the circumstances
that cause them. Because young children don't always connect their actions with
their feelings, you facilitate this developmental process when you listen and
reflect your understanding. Using or not using chemicals is a decision. You can
teach decision making throughout your children's lives by allowing them to make
choices consistent with their age. Begin with low risk choices, such as
"Do you want an egg or cereal for breakfast?" and allow your child to
experience the positive or negative consequences of each decision.
You also teach decision making when
you involve your children in problem solving. After demonstrating your
understanding of your child's feelings with reflective listening, brainstorm
alternatives by soliciting all of your child's ideas without evaluating them.
Then help your child evaluate the ideas generated and examine the likely
consequences of each choice. Once your child chooses a solution, your
responsibility is to ask him or her to commit to following through on the
decision and to initiate a plan for evaluating the success of the decision.
This ability to make decisions not only builds children's self-esteem, but also
gives them a sense of mastery and trust in their capacity to make good
decisions. Children learn by listening and watching. What parents say is as
important as what they do. Talk to your children about the health risks of
abusing chemicals. Point out how abusing substances can bring harm to the user
and other people. Discuss how dangerous it is to engage in sports or drive
while under the influence of a mood-altering drug. Talk about how drinking is
illegal for anyone under 21.
Families where this information is
transmitted successfully have distinct characteristics. First, because the parents
model the behavior of no use or responsible use they talk about, children in
these families believe the messages are meaningful. Second, the children
perceive themselves as having
appropriate decision-making power in their families. They know that a
drug-free life brings intrinsic value like pride and self-discipline and extrinsic
rewards like good grades and avoiding hangovers. Finally, these families give
their young members constant affirmations by
time together evaluating themselves
as a family and each other as individuals. By setting an example and
reinforcing beliefs that foster healthy attitudes about chemicals, you can help
your children choose a drug- free lifestyle.