Every year, Americans make New Year’s resolutions. We stick to them for several weeks (months, if we’re lucky), then many of us tend to creep back into old habits.
This year, I challenge you to make a resolution that doesn’t involve shedding pounds or hitting the gym, but that’s all about improving your child’s future. Make a plan to speak with your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and then do it.
When talking to teens, be aware that no matter how disinterested they appear, most truly respect their parents’ views and seek their approval.
Parents are the most important and influential people in their child’s life, and there’s plenty of research to prove it.
Discussing your views about drugs and alcohol will have an effect on your child’s behavior. Explain that alcohol use during the teenage years can cause increased risk of dependency later in life, premature sexual activity, increased violence and academic failure.
When children understand the repercussions, they may realize it is not worth the risks.
It also is important for teens to understand that many of their friends are apprehensive about using alcohol, too. Misperceptions are very common, because kids frequently pick up misinformation from peers or mixed messages from the media.
Youth First’s 2011 Most of Us® Survey found Southwest Indiana teens think most of their peers regularly use alcohol, when in reality 7 out of 10 never or rarely drink alcohol.
Debunking the common “everyone is doing it” myth helps teens feel more confident saying “no” to alcohol and other drugs.
Starting the conversation will not always be easy since teens can be reluctant to open up.
It is important that you stay persistent and keep communication lines open.
Put rules in place to help decrease the opportunity for alcohol use. When they are out with friends, make sure teens check in with you, have a curfew and inform you of their company.
Make sure you clearly forbid underage drinking and drunken driving so they understand it’s completely unacceptable behavior.
Teens do not process information the same way as adults, so it is important to make sure your rules leave no room for misinterpretation.
Most importantly, make your teen feel comfortable talking with you. Share that you always are open to talking about life’s pressures.
And last, never stop connecting with your children.
One talk will not do the trick. Be their best role model, communicating not only verbally but also by how you live. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.
Be active in your child’s life and get to know friends and classmates. Schedule fun activities to enjoy together, and eat dinner as a family.
If you provide children with structure and an open environment, they will feel more comfortable speaking to you about what’s really bothering them.
Parents can help create an environment that decreases risks for substance use and other risky behaviors and improves the chances that children have successful futures.