Tips for Preventing Teen Drug and Alcohol Use
Research consistently shows that parents, are the number one influence for kids when it comes to making choices about drug and alcohol use. The most common reason that youth cite for why they don’t use drugs/alcohol is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. Being engaged in your child’s life is one of the most powerful prevention tools. Keeping your kids away from alcohol and drug use is an important step to giving them a healthy childhood and help them become healthy, productive adults.
So How do you Make Sure You’re Engaged?
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has developed these nine facets of parental engagement. Utilizing these tools goes far beyond drug and alcohol prevention and leads to better long term relationships with your teens. Teens who have hands on parents are much less likely to get involved in drug and alcohol use and parents who are engaged are much more likely to recognize the signs of potential use.
Other Prevention Tips
- Get to know your child’s friends and their parents
- Ask questions and search your child’s room and belongings if you suspect that your child is using drugs/alcohol or is involved in other risky behaviors
- Be proud of them and praise them when they do something good
- Know that you matter. Youth rely on parents more than anyone else in their life to provide values and norms and for support when they are facing difficult decisions.
- Know the Facts. Be aware of signs and effects of drug use and other risky behaviors. See our resources below.
- Be a Parent, Not a Friend. Kids need and want parents to be involved in their lives, praise and reward good behavior, set clear limits, rules and boundaries and be sure to enforce them.
- Have open lines of Communication. Practice good listening skills, ask open ended questions and questions and encourage them to talk. Offer guidance and support. Provide them with effective lines they can use if ever put into risky situations. A good resource on this can be found here: http://www.parentfurther.com/discipline-values/peer-pressure/resisting
- Rules and Boundaries are not Negotiable. If your child breaks the rules follow through with set consequences and don’t negotiate.
- Be Honest. If your child asks about your behavior when you were young it is best to give short, honest answers. No need for details but be sure to tell them how you felt in the situations and what helped you make decisions.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. Some of the moments can occur when discussing movies or books, at the dinner table, or doing chores together. Whatever the situation know that it doesn’t mean it has to be a long talk. It could be a few simple words.
- Call on Your Community. All parents face similar situations. Network with other parents to get strategies and ideas from others. You are not alone! For information on joining or starting a Safe Homes Networking group in Livingston County visit: http://casaoflc.org/hctc/parents/safe-homes
Know the Symptoms of Drug Use
Here are some of the general symptoms that may reveal current drug use:
- Excessive talking, rapid or slurred speech
- Bizarre or paranoid comments
- Excessive forgetfulness
- Difficulty expressing thoughts
- Lack of coordination, poor balance, tipsy walking
- Inability to concentrate or follow a conversation
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated or very small pupils
- Excessive sweating, jitters, and jumpiness
- Nodding off (eyes closing, head falling forward)
- Nosebleeds, excessively rubbing or wiping the nose
- Constantly popping breath mints, chewing gum, or drinking a flavored drink immediately before talking to you (to cover the smell of alcohol or smoke)
- Missing prescription drugs
- Possession of drug paraphernalia such as tin foil, rolling papers, pipes, straws, plastic bags
- Increased accumulation of inhalable products such as glue, hairspray, or nail polish
- Increased accumulation of over-the-counter cold medicine
- Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfumes to hide smoke or chemical odors on clothing or in a room
- Stealing money or valuable items, spending money but nothing to show for
If you Think Your Child is Using Drugs
If you suspect that your child is using alcohol or drugs your role is to intervene early. Ending the behavior early significantly reduces the risk that your child’s use will lead to harm such as poor school performance, legal problems, brain damage, or addiction. You can start intervening by taking the following steps:
- Calmly discuss your concerns with your child
- Assess the severity of the situation
- Enforce consequences for your child’s actions
- Monitor your child closely
- Increase family time
- Get your child involved in constructive activities
- Seek professional advice
Contact the Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse of Livingston County for prevention, evaluation and treatment:
Geneseo Office: (585) 991-5012
Dansville Office: (585) 335-5052
Contact: Healthy Communities that Care (a project of CASA of Livingston County) to get involved in parent and community prevention:
Phone: (585) 748-5146