America is facing a national drug crisis, and it isn’t just adults that are afflicted. Around 100 people die every day from overdoses, and, tragically, some of them are our nation’s children. In fact, by the time they reach the tender age of 17, 70 percent of children have been offered illegal drugs, according to the Council on Alcohol and Drugs. And statistics show it doesn’t matter whether they’re attending an inner city public school or a private, high dollar college preparatory school, living in pricey suburbia or rural farm country; drugs and alcohol don’t discriminate.
It’s critical as parents that we don’t adopt the notion that “this can’t happen to our family.” Instead, it’s important to take action knowing that your child will come across these social temptations, and you’ll be acting in their best interest by educating them early about the grave risks. And according to Parenting magazine, if you wait until they’re 13 or 14, it might be too late, as many children start drinking alcohol at just nine and 10 years of age.
Here are some talking points to aid in your discussion.
Educate Yourself Before You Educate Your Child
This could be one of the most important conversations you have with your children, so it’s important to be prepared. Some parents elect to have contracts for older children to make clear their expectations. Other parents do random drug testing. Educate yourself so you’re delivering the right age-appropriate message in the right manner.
Navigating Peer Pressure
“We all want to be liked, and when you’re a child, there’s a lot more pressure to be a certain way or do certain things. Discuss your own challenges with peer pressure, both as a child and as an adult, and how you understand that sometimes it can be overwhelming,” says Treehouserehab.org. Help your child develop these techniques to deal with peer pressure:
Teach them it’s okay to say “no,” and firmly. If they’re wishy washy, the person doing the tempting will only push harder.
Teach them how to reframe the conversation, or change the subject. If your child is uncomfortable with a firm “no” they can respond with something like, “Wasn’t last night’s homework challenging?”
Teach them an exit strategy. For some children, it’s easier to get out of the situation rather than continue a conversation. Teach them responses like, “Oh my parent just texted” or “Oh no, I forgot my homework” to remove themselves quickly.
“Show Me Your Friends And I’ll Show You Your Future”
Make sure that your children understand that the friends they chose to surround themselves with are the very people that will be helping them frame their future. Choosing a positive peer support group will give them a valuable network of other children who are making positive life choices.
Make The Consequences Crystal Clear
Your children need to understand that one small trip behind the wheel after a beer could lead to jail time, or worse. Or that one sample of an illicit drug could end their life. Consider using powerful visuals that illustrate your point, like car wreckage from a teen drunk driving scene or an overdose victim. It’s okay for them to feel frightened, but do select the appropriate approach for their specific age.
Foster Healthy Self-Esteem
Children with low self-esteem are at an increased risk of turning to drugs and alcohol to feel better. Actively seek ways to make your child feel better about himself. Do this by spending quality time together, listening carefully, and by offering frequent praise and encouragement.
Once you’ve had an opportunity to talk to your children about the risks, there are some other important things you can do to help them stay on the right path. To start with, make sure you’re modeling good choices yourself. Drinking regularly in front of your children while talking to them about the risks will defeat your best intentions. Be in tune with your children to recognize any potential problems. Keep the lines of communication open. Not only will this help if they are facing peer pressure, but it can provide a valuable bond that will open the doors for conversations about many sensitive subjects in your children’s future.
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