“Just say no to drugs.” This message has been used so much over the years that many teens simply tune out whenever they hear another lecture beginning this way. Parents need to be more creative these days in keeping their kids off drugs, but for many parents, this task seems overwhelming. How do you get your kids to listen to you about things like drugs when it is hard enough to get them to listen to you about what kind of clothes they should wear? It might take a little contemplation and hard work, but it can be done. Here are some guidelines to keeping your kids off drugs and alcohol.
1. Know what they do. Stay involved in your child’s life as they get older, and make sure they are supervised by you or another responsible adult. Don’t assume that just because they are legally old enough to be home alone, that they are ok being left for hours at a time. Kids that come home from school to an empty house will find ways to keep themselves busy, and this is when many of them start experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
2. Know their interests. Not only will this help you know if your child is trying something harmful, but it will also help you build a healthy relationship with your teen. Get to know what kind of music they like, what their favorite tv show is all about, how they feel about the latest news stories. Sharing moments with them and listening to your child will teach you a lot about why they do what they do. Once there is a solid bond between parent and child, the say-no-to-drugs-talk will be much easier.
3. Build their self-esteem. Help your child find something they are good at, give them encouragement and praise, and let them know you love them and are proud of them no matter what. A confident teen that knows that drugs can mess up their life will be more likely to stay away from them.
4. Teach them how to say no. It might seem like enough to tell them to say no, but have you ever put yourself in their shoes? Think of your teen, surrounded by a group of friends that are all smoking pot, and if they don’t try it too, they will be the outcast. It is a very difficult thing to just say no. Instead, equip your teen with other things they can say to get out of this kind of situation. They could suggest other things to do (go to a movie, play a video game), they could say “I’m not into that”, or they could leave and find some other friends to hang out with.
5. Be a good role model. Keep yourself away from drugs and drunkenness. Teens do look up to their parents and will follow their actions more than words. Let them see you taking care of your body and following healthy habits.
It’s not enough these days to teach teens to just say no. Find ways to get to know your child and gain their respect, and then have talks with them that equip them with tools to stay away from drugs.