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Article Summary

10 Tips To A Drug Free Child

If you are looking for 10 tips to a drug free child, you might recall the Drug Abuse Reinforcement Education (or D.A.R.E.) programs that were taught in school some years ago. Although these programs were thought to be effective at reducing the risk of substance abuse among the young, studies have since shown that simply saying no does not stop enough adolescents from abusing drugs and alcohol. In 1998, for instance, a research brief by the National Institute of Justice filed this program under the drug prevention measures that do not work.

Even so, your children still need you to do something to ensure that they do not start abusing drugs. To this end, experts and researchers in drug abuse rehabilitation and prevention have been coming up with some tips to a drug free child. Using these tips, you can ensure that your children avoid alcohol and drugs or at least stop abusing them if they have already started.

As a parent, you have many responsibilities over your family. Apart from ensuring that they live in relative safety, are healthy, well clothed, and adequately fed, it is also essential that you prepare them for most of the challenges they are likely to encounter as they continue growing up.

Among these challenges is the problem of substance abuse among the young. To this end, you should take all the necessary steps to ensure that they learn how to avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs and deal with these substances when they are tempted to start using them.

Substance Abuse Prevention Tips For Parents

While preparing yourself to talk to your family about the problem of substance abuse, there are some things you need to remember. These include, but are not always limited to:

1. Get Help

Studies have shown that children who start using alcohol and drugs early and who continue using more frequently might have more problems with these substances later on in their adult life.

To this end, the sooner you step in and try and connect them to the help they need - through addiction and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services - the easier it will be for them to learn healthier coping skills. In the process, they will also be able to improve their self-confidence and adopt a positive perspective about substance abuse and recovery. In the long run, they will be in a better position to learn and create new, healthier habits - habits that are likely to continue sustaining them over the course of their lifetimes.

2. Ask Question

Another one of the top 10 tips to a drug free child is to ask questions - not just any question but the right questions. In particular, you might want to ask them about what they know, think, and have experienced with intoxicating and mind-altering substances. When they answer, be sure to listen attentively.

In the process, you might come to realize that they actually have more information about alcohol and drugs than you initially thought - especially about the drugs that have been trending among their peers. They might even understand both the adverse and the pleasurable effects of different drugs.

Asking questions will ensure that you assume nothing. It can also prepare you to make it clear to them that all drugs of abuse - including legal substances like tobacco cigarettes, prescription drugs, and alcohol are not safe and that they should never use them even in the smallest amounts.

3. Check-In

In the same way, even if your children seem to be completely onboard with living a lifestyle free of drugs, you should never tire of checking in with them. When you do so, ensure that you pay great attention to the small details.

This means that you should acquaint yourself with their peers and the friends they spend most of their time with. Where possible, follow them (and their peers) on social media.

In case you come across anything that looks like a red flag on alcohol and drug use, be sure to speak up. Ask what happened and ensure that you get them to answer you truthfully.

4. Follow Through

In case you realize that your children have been drinking alcohol or using drugs, you should not shy away from confronting them. If you had promised that there would be consequences if you apprehended them with these substances of abuse, follow through on these consequences.

5. Create an Actionable Plan

If you are concerned that your children will use intoxicating and mind-altering substances or they have friends who have many risk factors for substance abuse, provide them with an actionable plan.

For instance, you can ask them to send you a coded text message that only the two of you know. This way, when you receive the text, you can call them immediately and provide them with an excuse so that they can leave the drug using situation.

Through this type of actionable plan, your children will have a great way to escape any situation that they feel is potentially dangerous or that has been making them uncomfortable. In the long run, it could be the solution they need to prevent themselves from starting to use alcohol and drugs in the first place.

6. Provide Age-Appropriate Advice

The conversations you have with your children about substance abuse should vary depending on their age. For instance, how you talk to a 10-year-old would be different from how you would communicate with a teenager nearing the 18-year mark.

To this end, it is imperative that you ensure that you keep your directions, anecdotes, and advise appropriate to the age of your children - as well as their level of experience with drugs and with the world in general.

In the long run, remember that the drug talk will not be an one-off conversation that you will have with your children. Instead, you will have to tweak it over the years so that it matches your child's age.

7. Set Clear Boundaries

It would also be in your children's best interests if you were able to create rules about alcohol and drug abuse for the family. While doing this, ensure that these boundaries are clear and that they come with consequences for anyone who breaks them.

Of course, this will look different depending on your household. In general, however, the boundaries should be based on respect - both for you as a parent, for their siblings, as well as for themselves.

In the case of alcohol and drugs, you should ensure that these boundaries are stuck on total abstinence. This means that you should tolerate any amount or form of substance abuse under any circumstances.

It should also include their behavior at home as well as when they are under the supervision of other adults - such as the other members of your family, sitters, teachers, and other people in a position of authority over them.

If you don't set clear boundaries, it will send a mixed signal to the children. This might compel them to try and push these rules and try the intoxicating and addictive substances that you might have deemed to be off limits.

Therefore, you should ensure that you make all these boundaries surrounding alcohol and drugs absolutely clear. Similarly, you should clarify the consequences of using these substances and ensure that you enforce them strictly when you apprehend them in any situation involving the presence or use of drugs.

8. Start Early

The best time to start talking to your children about drugs is when they are in the second or the third grade. This is particularly true if they are already aware of some of the issues surrounding substance abuse and addiction - such as from other people in their lives.

Although it is highly unlikely that children at this age will have peers who drink or use drugs, it is still important that you start introducing the topic in their lives. At this age, in particular, you should be able to start laying the foundation for personal integrity, abstinence, and accountability - lessons that might eventually help them avoid using alcohol and drugs even if their peers eventually start on these substances later on.

9. Stay Sober

In case you use drugs or drink too much alcohol, it is highly unlikely that your children will listen to anything that you might have to say about the topic. To this end, your ability to show them a good example will be more effective at showing how honest and sincere you are about the problem of alcohol and drugs.

Therefore, if you are already an addict or dependent on any of these substances, seek addiction treatment and go for rehabilitation before your children are old enough to realize that you have a drug use problem. After you recover, stay away from these substances so that you will have a better opportunity to educate your children about drugs and alcohol down the line.

10. Additional Tips

Other tips that you can count on to ensure that your children never start on drugs and alcohol later in their lives include:

a) Confront Drug-Related Problems Quickly

In case you apprehend your children with drugs, or you suspect that they have been using, you should never wait before you act. Although some people are able to quit even after years of using as teens, research studies now show that the younger an individual is when they try alcohol and drugs, the higher the likelihood that they will end up as adult addicts with serious substance abuse problems.

Therefore, if you are concerned about your child's drug use and addiction, you should ensure that they get help as early as you discover the problem. In general, the earlier you act, the easier it might be for them to recover fully and get off these substances before it is too late.

The NSDUH (or the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) for 2010 showed that more than 12% of the people who tried marijuana for the first time when they were 14 years old ended up building a dependence on illicit drugs later on in their lives.

Although the initial choice to try drugs in teenage might be a voluntary action, it will become less of a choice later on when addiction has been etched into their brains. This is why you should always act fast even if you just suspect that your child has been indulging in alcohol and drugs.

b) Early Conversations

As we mentioned earlier, it would be in your best interests - as well as those of your children - when you start intervening early. This will enable you to battle the risk of substance abuse and addiction much better. It could even ensure that you are able to prevent the problem from developing in the first place.

To this end, you should start talking to your children about alcohol and drugs before they start getting opportunities to use these substances. According to recent studies, the appropriate time should be long before your children get to high school age.

According to the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study of 2011, for instance, 62% of the teenagers who reported that they drink alcohol said that they first started drinking when they were about 15 years old.

As a parent, therefore, you should start the drug conversation with your children when they are aged around 8 or 10 years old. This way, you should be able to get ahead of any misinformation that might later be spread to them by their friends and peers.

With so many prevention programs, some teachers and parents wait for too long before they start intervening when children are already in high school. This does not make much sense because, statistically speaking, even an 11 or 12-year-old might encounter older children who have already started using alcohol and drugs.

c) Set Expectations

As a parent, it is highly likely that your children already know - albeit in general - that you do not want them to start using alcohol or drugs. In fact, the NSDUH for 2010 showed that more than 89% of all teens between the ages of 12 and 17 reported their parents' strong disapproval of their trying cannabis.

Even so, you might feel hesitant to start talking about alcohol and drugs in greater detail before your child has been exposed to the problem. Still, it is imperative that you are as clear as possible about your expectations. In fact, the more clear and consistent your conversations about substance abuse, the easier it might be for you to prevent your children from starting to use in the first place.

To this end, it is imperative that you are as clear as possible about your rules about substance abuse. You should also explain exactly what is going to happen in case they break your rules.

If your children live in different households - such as because of a divorce or for any other reason - agree with the other parent about the rules you put down. This will make the message much more clear to the children.

As a parent, you should also be careful about prescription medications. Even if you are strict on your rules about other drugs, you should not dole out these medications in the home environment.

For instance, you might be tempted to give them some Vicodin if they complain of a headache or a toothache. Doing so will contribute to their perception - a perception that has increasingly been growing among teens and other young people - that prescription drugs are safe to use or even to abuse.

Therefore, you should inform yourself about the prescription abuse problem among children and teens. Then, use this information to prevent your family from abusing these drugs in the first place.

For instance, you should only take these medications only as your doctor prescribed them. In case there is some left over after you have cured your condition, discard of the remaining drugs safely.

d) Be Positive

Substance abuse prevention does not always need to come in the form of severe consequences and dire warnings for your children. In fact, you might want to try to capitalize on your children's motivation and desire to fit in with their peers to encourage them to desist from using drugs and alcohol.

In truth, most teens do not use alcohol or do drugs. A 2011 study by monitoring the Future, for instance, surveyed around 50,000 students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

According to the study, only about 12% of 8th graders reported that they had abused marijuana within the year prior to the study while less than 8% reported that they used the same drug within the past month. Similarly, around 10% of these studies reported that they used illegal drugs like inhalants within the past month.

Therefore, instead of focusing on any negative aspects of substance abuse, you might want to pay particular attention to positive messages.

e) Build Resilience and Emotional Ties

Did you know that it is possible to start teaching your children about drugs and how to avoid these substances even without having to mention alcohol and drugs? In particular, you might want to look into programs that are targeted at some of the reasons why children start abusing drugs in the first place, such as stress.

To this end, your drug prevention program should start in the 2nd or the 3rd grade. During this period, you should not talk about alcohol and drugs. Instead, you should start building their personal resolve and resiliency. This will curtail the risk that your children will turn to these addictive and intoxicating substances to soothe themselves or for self-medication.

You should also note that many studies now agree that children who have a hard time managing their problems and emotions, as well as those who have poor mental health, have a higher risk of abusing drugs and alcohol.

In case you notice these problems in your children, ensure that you build up family and emotional support as early as possible. This way, you can stem any problems that they might have with drugs later on in their lives.

According to the Columbia University NCASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse), children who consistently have dinner at home with the rest of their families have a lesser likelihood of being involved with intoxicating substances like marijuana and alcohol.

Years of research that involved 1000 teens and about 452 parents have also uncovered the fact that teens who have family dinners on an infrequent basis (less than 3 family dinners a week) are twice as likely as those who have these dinners 5 to 7 times weekly to use marijuana and tobacco.

Therefore, as you can see, there is more to preventing early drug and alcohol abuse than simply talking about these substances. Even something as simple as spending more time with your family could go a long way in helping them avoid substance abuse later on in their lives.

f) Exemplify Substance Abuse

You might also want to count on examples of substance abuse that your children may already know about. To this end, you should consider pointing out some real examples of drug problems.

Although you might want to continue setting a good example, you should not be afraid to show your children the real consequences of ongoing substance abuse and addiction.

For instance, you might want to talk to them about the people they know in their lives who are battling an addiction. Depending on how old your children are and their level of maturity, you could even count on family members who are addicted on intoxicating and mind-altering substances.

If your family has a history of addiction problems or poor mental health, you should also inform your children that they have a higher risk of later developing similar problems - especially if they choose to start abusing drugs at an early age.

Of course, you should explain this problem in the most neutral way possible. For instance, you could inform them that when people do certain drugs, then they face particular undeniable consequences.

This could potentially deter your children from trying drugs - especially after they have a clear mental image of what happens when people abuse intoxicating and addictive drugs.

g) Use the Health Angle

You might also want to remove the shame from the substance abuse prevention program that you engage in with your family. Instead, consider framing these conversations as health issues that need to be discussed.

While doing this, remember that your tone will matter greatly when you communicate with children - especially when they are still easily impressionable. Experts have also agreed that it might not always be effective to use tough language while trying to discourage your children from using drugs. They instead recommend that you should broach the topic of early substance abuse and addiction as a topic of health and wellness. This approach might prove to be more effective in the long run.

The important thing you should do is to ensure that you do talk about alcohol and drugs without interrogating your children strongly or trying to shame them into not doing it. As such, you might want to do it in pretty much the same way that you would talk about diabetes or the importance of working out and eating right. This is because, at the core, all these are health issues.

As a parent, you might also feel tempted to connect drug and alcohol prevention with protecting your children's future. However, many children might not be able to connect their future life in college and beyond with their current substance abuse.

Today, in particular, this approach no longer works. As such, you might not be able to scare your children - because most of them will not buy the scared straight mentality that you might have learned earlier in your life.

Therefore, instead of trying to making the drug topic a moral issue, you should consider informing your children that you are looking out for their best interests. Encourage them to take care of their health first by avoiding drugs. You should also inform them that you want them to turn out into their best versions living to their full potential - while pointing out how drugs can prevent them from achieving this vision.

Age-Appropriate Drug Prevention

Now that you have the 10 tips to a drug free child, it is important that you remember that conversations are among the powerful tools that you can rely on to connect with and protect your children.

However, while trying to tackle some of the tougher topics with your children - those that are related to drugs and alcohol in particular - it might be a bit of a challenge for you to figure out exactly what you should say to your children.

To this end, you might want to:

  • Balance negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement
  • Come from places of love, understanding, and care - even while having the toughest drug conversations with your children
  • Ensure that your conversations about drugs and alcohol are always honest and open

You should also remember that moments in which you can teach your children will crop up when you least expect them. As such, you should be mindful of any natural place where you can have a conversation with your children about drugs and alcohol. This way, you will be better prepared to broach these topics when the opportunity arises.

In the following sections, you will learn about some tips for preventing drug and alcohol abuse according to the age of your children:

1. Preschoolers (2 to 4 Years Old)

  • Celebrate their decision-making abilities and skills
  • Ensure they understand the difference between reality and make-believe - such as TV programs and stories
  • Explain how important it is to take good care of their body
  • Steer them away from dangerous substances like harmful chemicals, prescription medications, and anything else that might hurt them
  • Turn chores into fun experiences that they will enjoy
  • Turn their frustration into learning opportunities

2. Elementary Children (5 to 8 Years Old)

  • Enable them to escape from any situation where they feel bad or unsafe
  • Focus the conversation about drug abuse on the present
  • Improve their problem-solving skills
  • Know their friends (and their parents)
  • Set clear boundaries and rules about substance abuse
  • Talk about every drug-related message they may receive from entertainment sources, the news, and advertisements

3. Preteens (9 to 12 Years Old)

  • Ensure that they know your drug prevention rules- Help them separate fantasy from reality- Know their friends (and their parents)- Let them know that they can use you to excuse themselves from uncomfortable situations involving drugs and alcohol- Make positive comments to them to offset any feelings of pressure, doubt, and insecurity- Talk about the adverse effects of drug abuse on appearance

4. Teenagers (13 to 18 Year Olds)

  • Clarify the fact that you are totally against drug use of any kind
  • Discuss and show interest in their ups and downs to earn their trust
  • Do not negate the drug prevention responsibility to their school
  • Encourage them to volunteer at a place where they can understand the adverse consequences of substance abuse - such as victim services centers, hospitals, and homeless shelters
  • Inform them about the things that you find wonderful about them - to provide positive reinforcement and encouragement
  • Let them know your rules about substance abuse and any consequences that they will suffer if they break them
  • Remind them of the adverse effects of substance abuse on physical appearance

5. Young Adults

  • Inform yourself about any potential mental health problem they might have
  • Keep the lines of communication open with them after they leave home
  • Supervise their use of prescription medications

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, as long as you keep these top 10 tips to a drug-free child in mind every time you get an opportunity to teach your children about substance abuse, you should not have a drug problem in your family. If you end up having one, seek treatment and rehabilitation for them as early as possible to mitigate the problem before it gets worse.

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