As your children start to approach middle school the pressure of doing anything begins to increase, and access to everything from e-cigarettes to opioids can be found in schools all over the country. By the time our children get to college, 75% of college students say access to drugs are extremely easy to come by (check out those stats and others Here).
This makes speaking to our children at a young age about drugs, and addiction crucial, chances are you have already begun to do so, and you don’t even realize it yet.
Before Middle School
If we think about everyday life, I would love to assume that most families are talking to their children about drugs without even realizing they are doing it.
In my case, I suffer from spine and nerve damage issues due to a military injury and take prescription medication for this. Since my oldest son was able to communicate I have informed him that my medication is dangerous and can only be used by me, and for my issues alone.
Sure, my case may be unique, but we also do this with cold medication, or any antibiotics they had when they were young, and even now when it comes to ibuprofen for injuries from sports.
Your children will listen to you at a young age, so if you are not doing this start now, you are their role model, and hero.
Middle school is probably the hardest time for kids and the easiest place for kids to fall into bad habits. This is the place where kids tend to try and fit in with their new friends, and the pressures that go with it.
The most important thing you can do is to know your children’s friends and their parents. Know who they are, where they live, and what they are into. Sports, music games, etc… the time for freedom comes, but you want to make sure your children are protected first.
Make sure your children know and understand the consequences of their actions, and don’t be afraid to speak to them about drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol. For example if you tell them the rules for getting caught smoking or vaping is no allowance, video games and phone for a week or two. Stick to it, don’t give in, make sure they know you are serious.
DAD TIP: Sure you may say it’s their first offense, and its only smoking but if you keep being lenient the next thing they may try, could result in a thought process that enables them to think “Mom and Dad will let me go, they did before.”
Also, make sure they know their self-worth, building up your child, and being positive can have lasting effects as well. Don’t forget to listen to him or her either, sure it is easy to brush their day aside since they aren’t saving the world yet, but just listening to their problems can help as well.
High School & College
By this age, its a pretty sure bet that your children know or know of someone that has used or is using some type of drugs or alcohol. Some of the same things that applied in middle school will apply in high school, but hopefully, you have already laid the groundwork, and your children are well on their way to pushing the negative things out of their lives.
Now that he or she is getting ready for the real world let them know that using drugs will not only affect the way they look and smell. But it may change the way others perceive them. Also, inform them about that legal consequences can come into play as well, such as jail time, or even worse, your new teen driving under the influence of a drug and hurting themselves or someone else. They have to know that their decisions are real, and have equal and at times, harsh outcomes.
With that said, let them know you are serious and propose new punishments. For example, if they are driving, no car for x weeks, if they are dating no seeing that person for x weeks.
DAD TIP: If your child is starting to use, take them to a local volunteer shelter, let them see the long term effects up close. Sure, it’s rough, and can be hard on you, but nothing slaps you in the face like reality.
Another good thing is to be partially up to date with some of the jargon and over the counter drug names currently being used (use google). There are many lists out there and while you don’t want to impress upon every little thing your child does it may be useful to know what’s trending just in case you hear the lingo around the house.
I don’t have any children in college yet, but according to a study conducted by Ohio State University, 16% of all college students use prescription drugs for things other than what they are prescribed. Check it out here for a quick read.
Another thing you can find on google is that alcohol is extremely high on the college kids to do list, while this may not be considered an illegal narcotic, it does have lasting effects, and you should talk to your college student about proper consumption if he or she is old enough.
TIPS for Parents
Look I know you want to be the cool parent, and say, well if my kid is going to drink or so something let them do it at my house. Two things here, one that is setting a bad example. You’ve gone through years of saying hey be responsible and do the right thing, and now you’re going to say, hey it’s okay I know you are underage let’s go ahead and allow this at home. You have everything you said over the years. More importantly, if you do this with someone else child as well, not only is that morally irresponsible but, if something happens you can bet you will be held responsible for any, and everything that happens to those kids.
Also, be mindful of the prescription drugs you hand out to your children. Just because you have a few Vicodin laying around from the previous injury doesn’t mean its a good thing to give your child when he or she has a bit of pain. They may like it, maybe they don’t, but you don’t want to provide the image that over the counter drugs are okay.
Thanks for reading, and good luck.