“Research shows that parents are the single biggest influence on children – if you are worried about your teen and drugs, talk to them”
– John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
If you are a parent to a teen and you are worried about his education, social life, his health or his wellbeing, you are normal!
The concern regarding your teen puts you, together with 100% of parents of teens around the world. One important issue parents are facing in recent years is the fear of the easy access and availability of drugs in their teens’ daily life.
* Male references have been used for writing convenience and should be taken as male or female equally
The Australian government released statistics regarding drugs and parenting. “In 2004, 29% of teenagers aged 14 to 19 had used illicit drugs in their lifetime” (Australian Institute of Health and Wellfare, 2005). Look around you. One out of three teens will use drugs in their short life and your kid is at big risk.
If you think he is in the 61% that have not used drugs, just because you love him so much, think twice, because “About 70% of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine users obtained their drugs from friends and acquaintances” which makes you worry even more who your teen hangs around with and how easy it will be to influence him to start using.
While some parents think that teens use drugs only if they have problems at home or academic challenges at school, teens indicate other reasons:
- Availability of the drug
- Wanting to be accepted
- A way to relax or cope with stress, boredom or pain
- To experience high or rush
- To feel OK, at least temporarily
If you examine the reasons teens start using drugs, you can see a clear indication that their emotional state plays a major rule in their tendency to use drugs. If you have a happy, confident, accepted, cooperative and healthy teen, he will definitely avoid places where drugs are so available or will refuse unhealthy dangerous offers.
Some parents believe that being strict or keeping teens under tight rules and boundaries will minimise the chance their teen will use drugs. Unfortunately, the teens’ emotional state, which is the main reason for using drugs, does not change just by creating a loving prison at home. Putting more pressure is not the best way to handle stress.
The years between age 14 and 18 are wonderful but very stressful, when teens are still limited in their perception, experiences and responsibility. It takes inner strength and trust in the adults in their life for teens to develop the courage to say no to drugs. The ability to say no to any addiction requires emotional intelligence that needs to be nourished over the years.
Teens, just like their parents and teachers, do many things to get a desired feeling. Teens who starve for a feeling will do everything to get that feeling. The more they lack this feeling, the more they will give to get it.
Use of drugs is considered a fast and easy way to get that feeling but it is a never-ending cycle because of its addiction component. Teens start using drugs because of an emotional stress. Addiction is an easy high for an emotional stress. Food, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs can ease the stressful situation, but with a high price to pay. Unfortunately, it eases the down feeling only temporary and increases the level of stress… Teens using drugs “twice as likely to report high levels of psychological distress.” Stress leads to addictions, addictions leads to stress and it is a never-ending cycle. Addicted people are addicted to the short relief and will increase the frequency, use more or shift to stronger drugs.
With many influences on your teens’ life, You , the parent, is still the most important agent and you have lots of power with your time, your caring and sharing, to give him the confidence to stay out of this statistics and help your teen make healthy, reasonable and responsible choices in his life.
Research with parents and children indicates that one of the most effective methods to prevent young people from using drugs is a devoted parent who spends time with their teens, talks with them (not to them) about their friends, their school, their sports and what interests them. The research also reports that teens appreciate parents’ advice and care a lot about what their parents think of them, their actions and their friends and consider this parental feedback a sign of caring.
10 ways to help your teen say no to drugs!
- Be a role model. In drugs, just like any other aspect of life, what you do will have a major influence of your teen’s life. Practicing what you preach works here as the number one rule to strengthen your teen confidence in life. “Do as I say, not as I do” never works with children and destroys one of the most important ingredient in parenting – trust.
- Focus on the positive. In life, you get what you focus on. Make a habit of concentrating on the good in life and in your teen. Think and express the things you appreciate about him, reasons to be proud of him, things you are happy about regarding him. This focus will send messages of positive expectations rather than negative consequences.
- Spend time with your teen. We live in a very hectic life. Still, dedicate time to your teen. Go out with him to a movie, help him with his homework and go out on family outings. Make a date with your teen at least once a week to do something together.
- Take interest in your teen’s life. If you want to be an important part of your teen’s life, be an important part of his life by learning all there is to learn about your teen. Make sure you are aware of every aspect of his life. What are the names of his best friends, when he has what at school, what he loves to do and who his favourite singer is.
- Be honest and share your life with your teen. If you want your teen to share his life with you when you take interest in him, make sure you are honest about what happens in your own life. Tell him about your childhood, your challenges in the past and present, your successes and disappointments, good friends or friends that were not good for you and the choices you have had to make. Everything you want your teen to share with you, you have to share first.
- Tell them how much you love them. Even if they are no longer young kids and sometimes they are taller than you are, remember that they are looking for love, everywhere and all the time. Make sure they know how much you love them and say it every chance you get. Say it, write it and sing it every day of their life. A day without telling your kids how much you love them is a day wasted.
- Listen to your teen. Make your teen feel appreciated and valued as an important member of the family. Ask your teen what he thinks about family decisions. Ask for suggestions and opinions. If you listen, you are approachable and they will more likely come for help when they need it and will acquire a positive, healthy attitude towards adults.
- Touch your teen. The need for physical touch is so essential in your teen’s life that he or she will do anything to have it. Anything! Even if they are grown ups, touch them, hug them and kiss them. It will lower the risks they take when they look for any physical contact.
- Favour emotional success over academic success. Many conflicts between parents and their teens are about school. Some parents think that knowledge and academic achievements play a major role in their kids’ life, where in fact their emotional state is far more important. Whenever you have to choose between academic and emotional strength, remember, that their confidence and emotional intelligence will determine if they are strong enough to say no to things that are unhealthy for them.
- Always keep communication channels open! Talk to your teens, tell them about your day and ask them about theirs. Tell them about your challenges and feelings and ask about theirs. Give and you shall receive. Write your teen notes, letters or emails. Keep the communication open even if you are not happy. Make sure you are calm and do not overreact. Always, always leave the door open for them to come back to you if they have made a mistake.
It takes a while before a small need for an emotional high becomes an addiction. Long before your teen enters the world statistics regarding teens and drugs, you can, with a consistent investment of your time and awareness, minimise your fear and maximise your teen’s chace to live a happy, responsible and healthy life.