Parenting Practices that Reduce Children’s Risk of Developing Drug and Alcohol Problems

Despite what you may think, your children are listening to you, and they want to please you. Striking up a conversation about drugs and alcohol isn’t always easy, but doing so, as well as putting into practice some guidelines that will keep you in the loop of your child’s life while being supportive, will reduce their risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem.

“Kids listen to their parents whether they admit it or not. They can be that little bird on their shoulder,” said Melissa Dotter, drug free communities program director for the Marathon County Health Department.

Dotter recommends you talk early and often and be sure they know why you’d like them to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

“You can’t make kids’ decisions for them, but if they know why you want them to make these decisions they may be more likely to hear you,” Dotter said.

She says locally, some children are trying alcohol or drugs before they see their tenth birthday. Much of it has to do with what is available to them at home. If there is alcohol in the liquor cabinet, they may be tempted to swipe some. If there are prescription pain kills in the bathroom, they’re easily accessed.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org has six parental guidelines that experts agree will reduce your child’s chance of developing an alcohol or drug problem. Parents have power.

  1. Build a Warm and Supportive Relationship with Your Child
    • This is especially important when your child is young, but it’s also vital to maintain a close, supportive relationship with your teenager.

    • Kids in families that argue, fight and treat each other badly have a greater risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem. Parents who physically punish their kids are also putting them at greater risk.

    • Be involved in your child’s extracurricular activities and show up at games and events. Do fun things together. Discuss shared interests. Keep a cool head.

    • Offer encouragements for small and big achievements.

    • Allow an appropriate amount of independence.

  2. Be a Good Role Model When it Comes to Drinking, Taking Prescription Drugs and Handling Stress
    • Do not become intoxicated in front of your children. If you choose to drink, have one with dinner or for a celebration.

    • Follow instructions of prescription drugs carefully. Do not share with other family members, take only what is prescribed, and do not leave left-overs sitting around. Dispose of unused drugs at a medication drop-off site.

    • Use healthy stress management techniques, like exercising or meditation. Do not say, “I need a drink” after a hectic day at work.

  3. Know Your Child’s Risk Level
    • Research shows that some teens are at a higher risk of developing drug or alcohol habits.

    • Family history. Teens whose parents or grandparents had problems with alcohol or drugs are more likely to have problems themselves. Tell your children they’re at greater risk if there is a family history.

    • Mental or behavioral disorders including depression, anxiety and ADHD put children at a greater risk of developing a problem.

    • Trauma. Children who have been through traumatic events, like physical or sexual abuse, being in a car accident or natural disaster, or losing someone important to them are more likely to get involved with drugs or alcohol.

    • Impulse Control Problems. Kids who frequently do risky things and have a hard time controlling impulses are more likely to take drugs and alcohol.

  4. Know Your Child’s Friends
    • Your child’s friends can influence him to engage in risky behavior.

    • Ask questions about your child’s friends. Ask your child’s friends questions too, including about their family, curfew, and interests.

    • Discuss what it means to be a good friend (loyal, supportive, wants what’s best for you).

    • Check in with your teen’s friend’s parents if you can.

  5. Monitor, Supervise and Set Boundaries
    • Know where your child is, always. Know what activities they’re involved in and who they’re hanging out with. Keep track of your child’s grades and academic performance.

    • Be present during recreational activities and parties. Help with homework and school projects.

    • Set boundaries and rules. Make it clear to them that using alcohol or drugs will not be tolerated. Set a curfew and stick with it. Let them know there will be clear consequences if rules aren’t followed.

    • Don’t be unreasonable, and don’t be overwhelming. Teens need some independence and should be allowed to spend time with their friends.

  6. Have Ongoing Conversations About Drugs and Alcohol
    • Talk about drug and alcohol abuse when the opportunity presents itself (you see someone intoxicated, there’s a news story about it).

    • Be brief and be positive.

    • Educate them about new drugs and trends.

    • If you feel uncomfortable, seek professional help.

    • A good conversation starter is, “Have you ever been offered drugs or alcohol?”

For more detailed information and a guide on how to talk to your child about drugs and alcohol at any age, go to drugfree.org.



About the Author...
Liz Hayes
Liz loves spending time outdoors, working out, traveling, taking in the arts, reading and catching up on TV.
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