How to Teach Your Children About Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs in Popular Culture
Educating children and teenagers in today’s chaotic climate is a daunting task to say the very least. Our children are up against circumstances and influences that we never conceived could exist in years and decades past. It’s not just TV, movies, magazines and advertising depicting the glories of routine alcohol consumption, the rationale of smoking pot, and excessive pill popping. The internet and social media provide an infinite platform for the proliferation of positive messages and images of drug and alcohol abuse.
Take a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine as an example: Six articles listed on the cover were about the virtues of smoking marijuana. Whether the “war on drugs” and incarceration are providing solutions is another matter – but it is certain that our children are being subjected to miseducation on the subject of drug abuse. There are constructive messages out there as well. Rap artist Eminem recently spoke of his addiction to Vicodin and prescription pills (such as Valium and Xanax) and how they very nearly killed him before he even recognized he had a serious problem.
In the United States it is estimated that drugs take a life every 14 minutes, now outnumbering traffic fatalities. That statistic does not even take into account how many traffic fatalities are drug and alcohol-related, or even the statistics of crime and violence invariably intertwined with the drug trade. One cause of the spike in drug-related deaths is the rise in prescription drug abuse. An estimated 10 million American schoolchildren are on psychotropic drugs (antidepressants, stimulants, etc.) for educational and behavioral problems. Factually, many of these problems are easily fixed through natural and standard medical means – such as taking kids off sugar and treating allergies. The “fix it with a pill” mentality has not been working any more than smoking weed or snorting coke solves a person’s problems.
When you string out a child on heavy psychoactive drugs, they are far more likely to abuse them and demonstrate addictive behavior. Take Ritalin for example: It is a Schedule II drug in the same class as cocaine; it is abused by youth who crush, snort, smoke, and inject it – and it is referred to on the street as “Kiddie Coke.”
Any of these facts should be enough to indicate to any concerned parent that our children must be educated in the truth about drugs so they can make rational decisions. What are some vital points of discussion? How do we teach them?
What is the most potent and powerful weapon against a lie? The answer would of course be the truth. Our children need to be educated in the truth about drugs and alcohol – simple as that. One commonly overlooked fact is that often the parents must be educated as well. As a parent, you should get in the know about youth drug trends. If the child knows more than you, he or she could simply conceive that you don’t really know what you’re talking about – and to some extent they would be correct. So get informed about such things as the scourge of synthetic drugs, prescription drug abuse, the effects of THC (the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana), slang names and street language, club drugs like GHB and ecstasy, and date rape drugs like Rohypnol (“Roofies”).
All the information may seem overwhelming at first, and you probably won’t be able to take it all in in one sitting, but educate yourself for the sake of your children. If you are a former user then you can use your experience in a positive manner.
You can participate in drug education at your children’s school, have them learn online (a positive use of the internet), but do not omit the live parent-child conversation. Ask them questions. Get them to ask you questions. See what they think and determine if they are really getting the information. A child yawning through a dry lecture is not really listening of learning.
Real Life Examples
Coach them in a role-playing scenario. How will they respond to peer pressure? How “cool” are drugs and alcohol in their school? You can have them watch interviews with former users or speak with ex-addicts and get some of the harsh facts about addiction. Drug abuse and addiction often blur together – a person doesn’t realize they are addicted until they are deeply entrenched in the problem. When they recover they want to advise others about the traps they fell into. Many addicts also had friends that didn’t make it out alive.
You can shelter your child from the truth, but it is far wiser to expose them to it rather than them finding out the hard way.
The Appeal of Drugs
Despite all the negative facts, drugs are still very appealing to many youth and adults alike. Learning why is a vital part of the equation. Here are a few of the reasons:
1. Lack of knowledge or false information on drugs and alcohol.
2. Peer pressure – urged by friends to do it.
3. Drug use is “cool” and they want to fit in.
5. Awkward and insecure in social situations.
6. They have problems and view drug and alcohol use as a solution.
7. No real goals or direction in life.
9. Emotional or physical pain.
10. Seek to numb traumatic experience.
11. They want to experiment.
12. If they say “no” they are ridiculed and bullied.
13. The drug is “legal” or promoted as harmless.
14. They find “drug culture” appealing.
In addition to education, the only real way to work through these influences is through communication. It is a test of your mettle as a parent when you can help your children through the array of problems and emotions they experience.
Kids can be offered drugs at a very young age, so the sooner you start going over these things the better. If your child or teenager is already abusing drugs or alcohol, depending on the severity of the situation, supervised detoxification and rehabilitation may be an option for you to consider.
Establish Family Policy
You may wish to formulate a verbal or written agreement or contract with your child. This may seem a bit extreme, but consider the fact that in any group or nation, laws must be drawn up and understood. The rules should be simple. The child should know exactly where he or she stands.
Conversely, you want to be an understanding parent and you don’t want to get shut out. You don’t want your teenage daughter getting into a car with a drunk teenage driver – you want her calling you instantly so you can pick her up no matter what time it is. As a parent you want to be respected but you should also be a friend. Possibly this seems utterly impossible with your child but that doesn’t mean you don’t work on it. Perhaps “good cop – bad cop” works best in your family. No matter your approach, keep in mind that no one said parenting was easy!
The family environment should be encouraging and nurturing. Many parents are holding more than one job and work long hours. Take time out to talk with your kids about their lives and their problems. A positive and creative home environment goes a long way in providing a safe and strong foundation for youth. Take a look at your home environment. You may want to make some adjustments. As an example, you may want to quit smoking if you don’t want your kids to smoke.
Help your kids formulate goals in life; then take it further and help them draft plans for their practical attainment. Kids that are focused on positive and creative endeavor will have a tendency to skip the nonsense of drug abuse. Do your kids have a tendency to rebel? Maybe you can interest them in social reform. There is plenty wrong with world to rebel against in a positive and constructive manner.
Lastly, you won’t always be there. Eventually you have to cut the strings – they won’t be children forever. Being a parent takes rolling up your sleeves and a lot of hard work. Ideally, you’d be looking at a young person who was self-reliant and capable of making rational decisions.
Not one person on Earth is perfect, but you can give your child an edge through effective knowledge and the power of truth!