I recently attended a documentary on teen drug and alcohol abuse created by a local education group in the Dallas, Texas area. The documentary, entitled Not Me, chronicles the lives of four young adults and four parents who have personally experienced the devastating effects of addiction. Unfortunately this story is not at all uncommon these days, I know because I have also been down the path with my eldest son. After seeing this incredible film and living through the issue myself, I have some important thoughts about how to best keep your family safe from the (often devastating) effects of teen addiction.
1. Parents today do not have the luxury of thinking teen addiction cannot or will not happen to a child in their home. Addiction knows no social, religious, economic, gender, or anything-else-I-may-have-forgotten boundaries. Period. There are new kinds of drugs circulating everyday. That pot you tried or even used for a while in your teens and 20s…it’s TEN times more powerful now. And yes, our kids are trying substances at a younger age than ever, and other than “just pot” at alarming rates (for example, those pain pills you got from the doctor a while ago that are just sitting in your medicine cabinet gotta be locked up or properly disposed of, and by the way, tell Grandma and Grandpa to do the same thing).
2. That being said, panicking will not help you handle this potential situation with your child. One of the keys to parenting kids with regards to drugs these days is to be “in the know”. Get educated about the many different substances that are popular, their signs and symptoms of use, signs of overdose, how to test for drugs should you choose to do so in your home, and what to do if your child shows up at home high. Just like any other area of parenting, knowledge is power.
3. Even though you think your child would never, ever lie to your face, they could. There were at least a handful of occasions while my son was in high school when I point blank asked him if he had been taking liquor from the cabinet and he swore (making eye contact) he wasn’t. This was a child I felt very close to, he and I had great communication with one another…he would come to me with problems, we had a good relationship. In hindsight I realize my desire to believe my child overrode my gut instinct. God gave us gut instinct for a reason, whether your child is two and has a high fever and you know something is very, very wrong or, your sixteen year old is spending more time than usual out of the house or sleeping at friend’s homes, or sleeping much more (or much less) than usual. Be brave enough to do a gut check!
4. Be involved in their lives. There is a big difference between involvement and hovering. For our family this means no sleepovers, random phone checks, curfews, getting to know our kids friends and their parents and where those parents stand on drug and alcohol use. Even more important though, spending time with our kids so we really get to know who they are, making sure they understand we love them for exactly who they are and where they’re at. Our home should feel like a place where everyone is comfortable being themselves. We aren’t afraid to have honest, serious talks with our kids and we aren’t afraid to get silly with them either, so they see the fun side of mom and dad as well. REGULAR TIME TOGETHER is key. Family dinner whenever possible, movie nights, bowling, hikes on nice days…make it happen mom and dad.
5. Raise your children to understand there is a purpose to life greater than themselves. Spending time developing that belief and demonstrating it through volunteer work as individuals and as a family in your community. There are dozens of ways, take time to find a place that is a good fit for your interests!
And, most important, while this may sound trite, BE THE ADULT YOU WANT YOUR KID TO BECOME.
I have to be brutally honest and tell you that even if you do “everything right”, following all of the above as well as additional measures which best fit your family, teen addiction can still happen. However, if it does, you will be better prepared for the situation.
This post originally appeared on Kimberly’s site.
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