Protecting Kids from Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Important Facts for Every Parent to Know About Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Teenagers and Younger Children
Children are often exposed to the temptation to try drugs and alcohol long before parents suspect. Sometimes at the age of 10 or 11, or even younger, kids are experimenting with drinking. The fact of the matter is that parents often have their "heads in the sand" when it comes to their precious children using drugs and alcohol. By the time we find out, it can be too late.
Some possible clues early on:
Lower than normal grades
A new friend or friends (especially when their time is being totally monopolized)
Depression or other behavior problems
Steps to take before children get to the age of temptation:
Develop good self esteem in your child (building self confidence)
Get involved in your kids' lives
Establish basic rules early
Develop a stable home life as much as possible and teach good coping skills which helps to prevent stress and anxiety
Give them a good focus for their life, such as the church or sports, or career goals
Develop an interest or passion for something healthy, such as music or collecting, or animals
Set good examples when they are little, such as "no drugs or alcohol in the home"
Make a "no drugs policy" perfectly clear to them as soon as it's appropriate
If you suspect your children are experimenting:
Set up deterrents for breaking the family rules, such as drug testing, drug screening or a breathalyzer test (alcohol test) after going out with their friends or when they particularly want to be trusted
Impose punishments which fit the "crime"
Try some volunteer work at a homeless shelter or drug rehabilitation center to give them a different perspective on life
Visit someone in prison
Try diverting their attention to a new interest or passion (away from the problem)
Reward good behavior
If you know they are doing drugs or abusing alcohol:
Counseling with a mental health professional may help
Take them to AA meetings or similar (go with them)
Drug rehabilitation if the problem is further along
Make a regular date (suggest weekly or more often) with them for a "one on one" meeting to talk about what's going on in their life (a dinner out works well, but you can do this at home also)
If possible, sometimes changing schools or moving to another address can be helpful
From my life:
I know these things from experience, as I was one of those parents with "my head in the sand". I had no idea what was happening to my daughter at school everyday. I really thought she was still a "little girl". It started in middle school when she was about 12. She was 14 when she overdosed on alcohol at a party. This was a party where parents were present and in the next room! Her friends brought her home and deposited her on the front doorstep. She was limp. I was shocked. We called an ambulance and she went to emergency. There she tested positive for marijuana, meth, barbiturates and heroin! We were fortunate, she eventually recovered. After that we tried a lot of different things including extensive drug counseling, therapy, threats, meetings, punishment. I set up a regular weekly dinner out for just the two of us. At first she fought me about going. For weeks she sat there and said nothing. Slowly she began to respond and open up about things in her life a little at a time and eventually she told me she looked forward to our dinners out. What worked better than anything as a deterrent, was buying a breathalyzer. If I had known this would work so well, I would have bought it first thing. We also tried some drug tests, but getting the results in a week or even a few days is too long. Now the drug tests work faster and don't usually have to be sent into a lab. The breathalyzer results were immediate and she knew it was there waiting for her to try when she came home! It's also affordable and easy to use. I would recommend it to any parent of a teenager who suspects alcohol abuse.
Just as a followup, my daughter is 20 now. She's fully recovered. It wasn't easy. I was persistent and I prayed a lot. She has her own successful business now and is doing well.