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Kids Exposed to Drugs and Alcohol During School Day
According to a recent study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, approximately 20% or almost one in five students between 12 and 17 years old smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or use drugs during the school day. That same study also found that almost 90% of students knew at least one classmate that would use throughout the day and almost 50% knew a student that has actively sold drugs on or near school property. Now for many parents this raises the question “what can I do for my son or daughter if they ever experiment with drugs or alcohol?” The truth is that there are no easy answers to that question, because every child is different. Every family has different capacities that determine what is possible. However, these guiding principles may provide struggling parents with a solid start.
The First Step is Looking Inwards
This does not mean that parents have to look at personal flaws or something that they could have done differently, but it does mean that parents need to look inside and push their disappointment, fear and anger aside. There is a difference between condoning the behavior and distancing yourself from your child. Instead of letting the negative consume you, identify things that are going well, even if it is just a minor thing.
Talk to Them
This step is often difficult for many parents, it may seem natural to want to threaten, yell, preach, scold, anything you can to get your point across – but just talk. The important thing is to talk and listen. When the parents remain calm and explain themselves, the teenager understands that even if you are frustrated, angry and disappointed, you care about their welfare above everything else. Instead of assuming that you know what the underlying causes for the drug use are, let them come to you and give their side of the story. See if there is a way to engage them in solving the problem. It is important to take this step when you are no longer angry or emotional.
This is where parents have to step up and set boundaries. When you notice that kids are involved in risky or illegal behavior, it is important to remind them of the fact that it is unacceptable. Studies have found that parents play a large part when it comes to influencing substance abuse amongst teenagers. Even though some assume that a permissive attitude means that teenagers are more likely to talk to their parents, it turns out that expressing strong disapproval is the best way to ensure that teenagers do not experiment with narcotics. If young adults know that their parents would be extremely upset by their participation, they are less likely to partake or approve of illicit activities. Instead of telling kids that you are disappointed in them if they do stray, that they have brought shame to you and your family, let them know that you intend to keep them emotionally strong and physically healthy. Let them know you do not want them to become sick, overdose, go to jail, or possibly even die. It is important to establish clear limits and stick to them. It may seem difficult to stick to the ‘tough love’ approach when a child is calling on the phone, crying for help, but it is important that they know that you are prepared to follow through with what you say. Parents can try all they want, but there is no guarantee that any type of parenting will produce a law-abiding citizen.
Be Prepared to Become Involved
Many parents suggest that they would like to become more involved with their child’s life, but they simply don’t have the time to do so. This is the moment that may determine where the future of your son or daughter lies. It is important to become involved because it shows that you genuinely care. This is something that is easy to say, but often a lot harder to show. Even though it may be difficult to find common ground, especially if you have not been as involved in their life in recent memory, it is important to stick with it and show that the interest is not going to fade after a week or two.
Get the school involved. This step may seem strange, but could pay off in a big way. Many parents abdicate the responsibility for their offspring the moment that they leave their property. The school is not going to know that you are planning to be more involved unless you actively tell them. This is not the time to feel too proud to ask for help. It is also a chance to get involved with other parents. Not only does this build a support system that you can rely on, but chances are that several parents can come up with more ideas than just one or two can.
Be Prepared to Ask for Help
Sure, these aforementioned steps will provide you with some very general ideas, but nothing we write here today is a substitute for talking to an experienced professional who can oversee the entire situation. Oftentimes the problem does not start by itself and chances are that it will not pass on its own, either. If you find that you are unable to approach your son or daughter or get through to them in a meaningful way, there are professionals whose focus is teen substance abuse. It may seem intimidating to ask someone for help, for some parents it feels that they would be acknowledging there is a problem, that they are somehow not qualified as parents – but just know that in a moment like this, the most important thing is finding the right treatment. Some parents may read these steps and wonder where they are going to find the time. They will probably look at some of these steps, maybe even all of them and have no desire to do any of them. Most parents will wish that the problem would just go away by itself – this is a natural reaction. There are few things as frustrating as seeing a son or daughter struggle with drug abuse or even drug addiction. However, instead of feeling like a failure as a parent, think of it as a test of character. This type of test will shape the future for you and your family and like most tests, it is neither fun, fair nor easy but it is one that you can’t escape.