Preventing substance abuse is one major tool in the War On Drugs. Getting into classrooms early, talking to kids, and trying to balance the allure and pull of the streets, are all ways this is being accomplished. This is most effective, when coupled with ongoing parental communication and supervision. Without parents being actively involved, on every level of their children’s lives, the benefits of this early intervention are lessened considerably.
Many parents have adopted a different role from the traditional, and prefer to treat their children as “friends”, like little adults. They feel it’s important to allow them to make their own choices and decisions about everything. The rationale being, they need the “space” to grow and experiment. Other parents are themselves very reluctant to address “hot” issues, for fear of losing their children’s love and trust. This is erroneous thinking, and has led to major problems in many homes across America.
If a parent believes it’s OK to have his child drink at home, or smoke weed because, in the parents opinion it should be legalized, the conditions are ripe for major drug abuse, and other negative behaviors. Being a “buddy” to your kids, is not going to help. Asking your children to behave like model citizens in school, to get good grades and to comport themselves properly, while allowing these behaviors in the home, is hypocritical and damaging.
The decision to have children should be a considered one. And should include a readiness to assume full responsibility for the child’s welfare and well-being. It means being ready to make hard choices for the child, taking the time to raise them properly and a willingness to learn about issues that are critical to the child’s success in life. Children want and need guidance. They thrive in structured environments, where rules make “sense” to them. Parents are like safety walls they can push against, test and eventually come to feel safe with. This is the true meaning of being a parent. Nowhere, is this more crucial than in narcotics education and prevention.
The very first impressions a child forms about drugs comes from watching his parents. If there is a lot of drinking, and taking of medications, the child then begins to understand this is a normal thing to do. Many parents rush their kids off to doctors at the first sign of a cold or for minor injuries. Some of these kids are constantly medicated for every minor ache or pain. Here the first seeds of addiction are sown. The child becomes programmed to expect relief from a syrup or pill, every time he feels bad. From there, it’s not a huge jump into street drugs, as they grow older.
I explain to my 2 sons, that every medication has an impact on your system. That even OTC drugs are potent, and not to be taken lightly. Aches and pains are treated with a hot shower, massage or sometimes simply by diverting attention away from it. This has had 2 benefits. It is teaching them to view medications with the respect they deserve, and also when they do truly need pain relief or an antibiotic, it works much more effectively, using less medicine. This coupled with making them aware of alternatives to the constant ads for drugs, for every ill we have on earth, has made them much less vulnerable to drug abuse.
It doesn’t end there though. Parents have to be involved with their children’s lives. It is not safe to “assume” your child is doing what he says he’s doing. It is not wise to let your child go “visit” a friend whom you don’t know, and figure he’ll be safe. It is NOT the schools responsibility to raise your child for you. You, the parent, should be the primary source of information and trust. It is from you, they need to learn about life’s dangers, especially drugs. It is from you, and no one else, that guidelines for moral and ethical behavior should come from. Issues like drug abuse, sexuality, gangs, bullying and more need to be a part of regular family discussions. Starting this early, takes it out of the realm of “you better not” into factual and lively family talks. In a healthy family, the “you better nots” are mostly unnecessary, because open honest dialogue is comfortable and easy. The more facts you have, the more resources you use, the more trusting and comfortable the child becomes with you. This makes him much less vulnerable as a result. Confidence in his world and at school is amplified. When he listens to teachers and visiting law enforcement, he then believes he is being told the truth. The pieces fit in a way that makes sense to him.
Holding your child accountable for his behavior is equally important. Again, this has to begin very early. Allowing the child to excuse or rationalize negative behavior is very unhealthy. Even worse, is doing this yourself. Children need to understand that we live by rules and guidelines, That honesty and taking responsibility for our actions is a healthy and good thing to do. Praise and positive reinforcement, each time a child holds himself accountable, is the best way to foster this growth. Children not held to this standard are at risk for negative behavior all through life, and have a poor sense of what it means to be moral thinking beings. Setting clear guidelines for coming home on time, completing schoolwork, homework and introducing friends will help your child make the transition into adulthood much easier. Let the child know you will be calling in to check, and that he is to be where he’s supposed to be. Know his friends and their parents Where they live and their phone numbers. Ask questions. If you have done your job, this will be an accepted, and comfortable part of your child’s life.
But most of all, make certain your children feel safe enough to ask you anything, confident you can answer them honestly and completely. If you can do this, then you have done a good job.