With kids heading back to school for another year, naturally many parents are excited to get through the summer. However, for a number of parents whose kids are entering middle school or high school, it may be a time for concern due to the fact that it could be the first time their children are exposed to drugs and alcohol. While every parent would like to, and often do, believe that their child will make responsible decisions when it comes to mind altering substances, the reality is that a number of kids will try drugs and alcohol when offered.
Having an open and honest conversation with your children about substance use is of the utmost importance. Failing to talk with kids about drugs and alcohol can create mystique, which can turn to curiosity and then use. If teens do start using they will work hard to hide it from their parents and experimentation can quickly become a problem. Talking with your kids about these tough issues is not a one-time thing, it is a dialogue that should be ongoing.
One of the main responsibilities of being a parent is setting a good example. Teens often act like the adults they spend the most time around. If children see their parents using mind altering substances they become more likely to emulate the behavior. Indiscriminate use of any substance is something that children will pick-up on.
Sadly, many parents learn about their child having a problem for first time after something tragic happens, such as a car accident or overdose. That does not have to be the case, while you can’t always be around your child – you can be a vigilant observer. If you think there is a problem, there often is and you should talk to your child and/or seek outside help. There are a number of common signs that may be indicative of a problem, including:
- Dropping Grades
- Mood Swings
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty Waking Up
- Glassy Eyes
- Withdrawn Behavior
Just this past week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report recommending that parents start the conversation about drinking alcohol with their children before the age of 10. Co-author Dr. Lorena Siqueira cautioned that parents should not assume that children won’t listen to them. In the AAP News, the researchers offered the following advice:
- Talk to children as young as age 9 about the dangers of drinking
- If a teen is attending a party, make sure an adult will be present and alcohol will not be served
- Talk with your child in advance about how to handle scenarios in which alcohol is present
- Do not allow teens to drink in your home even if you are there
- Make sure your children know they can count on you for a ride home if they need to leave a party
- Parents don’t need to abstain from alcohol but should drink responsibly
If your child is struggling with drugs and alcohol, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.