13 Things You Can Do to Prevent Your Kids from Using Drugs

Prevent Your Kids From Using Drugs

At some point in everyone’s life, it becomes their turn to learn about drugs. As a parent, it becomes your responsibility to prevent your kid from using drugs as well as you can. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “By the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose.” Unfortunately, there are no answers as to why some children become addicts over others. What is known is that the propensity to become a drug addict is a combination of genetics, environment, and a possibility of co-occurring disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. So, what can you do to prevent your children from becoming drug addicts? Below are some common tactics that successful parents use to keep their children safe.

1. Establish good communication with your children.

The first step to ensuring your kids don’t use drugs is to open up a line of communication. They should know that they can come to you for their needs. Although you are a parent and offering “judgment-free” advice isn’t likely – it’s extremely important that your kids understand that no matter what they have to say, you will hear them out. These days, it’s easier than ever to communicate with our children because of cell phones. While your child is not in the home, you can keep the communication going. Texting and email also allows your child to contact you in a way that’s not face-to-face if the topic of conversation is embarrassing or difficult for them.

2. Be an active participant in your child’s life.

By being an active participant in your kid’s life, you are ensuring they will be less likely to abuse drugs. You’ll know their friends, parents of friends, and the events of their day-to-day life. Teachers and parents will learn your name and be more likely to share information with you in the event your child begins to act differently or starts hanging out with new friends. Teachers and other parents are extra supervision for your children. Don’t underestimate the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child.”

3. Be a good example for your kids.

The good example begins with you. Being a role model to your children is inherent in the job of a parent. It’s important to think before doing something questionable for the sake of your children. If your child is struggling to say “no” to peers regarding drug use, then you need to set an example by refraining from drug use. Kids notice everything, and teens will be likely to call out hypocrisy when they see it. If addiction is something you struggle with as well, it’s important that you get help dealing with it before you can give your child 100 percent of your support as a parent.

4. Know where your children are and what they are doing.

Although some are worried about being a “helicopter parent,” there is nothing wrong with knowing where your children are. It’s important that you be in tune with their habits so that if something changes, you’ll notice. For most kids, they receive their first drugs from friends or family, so it’s crucial to know who your child is socializing with. If they are hanging around with the kinds of people that are known to drink alcohol or do drugs, you can help them find new friends to associate with.

5. Explain to your child the nature of the disease.

When talking about any kind of addiction, it is important to explain to your children that its cause is not simply a search for a pleasurable experience. Addiction has nothing to do with someone’s morality or strength of character. Addiction can be seen as a true mental illness. Whether drug dependence and addiction are agreed to be the same thing is not the argument. That debate is not likely to be resolved anytime soon. Classifying drug addiction as a disease or otherwise does not change the therapy for it.

6. Teach your children how to say “no” to drugs.

Resisting peer pressure can be extremely difficult for adolescents and adults alike. You can prevent your child from becoming an addict by teaching them ways to say “no” to drugs. Some common tactics include: telling your friends you’re trying to stay healthy for the sake of sports; at a party, go dance instead of drinking; say your “parents won’t let you”; or tell your friends you have a test to study for. Although they may not all work, these are generally effective tactics to keep the pressure from getting the better of your kids. Instead of allowing your child to learn these lessons through trial and error, it’s important that they learn these coping tools from you.

7. Build your child’s self-esteem.

By helping your child build self-esteem and find their voice, you make it easier for them to say “no” when the time comes for them to resist drugs. Raising a child isn’t all about establishing and enforcing rules. A part of parenting is giving your child opportunities to make the right choices. Some easy ways to increase a kid’s self-esteem is: to let them know no one is perfect, to let them make choices, to offer only sincere praise when praise is due, and to give them age-appropriate responsibilities. All these things are the basic building blocks to raising a child who isn’t afraid to say no and has the drive to create long-term goals for themselves.

8. Make rules and stick to them.

Consistency is the key to making good habits when it comes to preventing drug abuse in children. Make house rules and stick to them. By doing so, you show your child that there is little flexibility in your expectations for their success. By making rules and following through on them, you also communicate to your child that you care about their wellbeing and success. Creating a household culture of rule-making and abiding is a long-term vision for your children. Although they may dislike the structure at first, if you begin young, it becomes their “normal.” Successful parents are persistent ones.

9. Make your home a safe, drug-free zone.

Again, drug abuse can be genetic. By creating an environment that fosters alcohol and drug abuse, you are communicating to your children that it’s safe to use substances. Households where drugs and alcohol are used often result in much higher rates of adolescent drug and alcohol abuse. Keeping your home as free from drugs as possible is the best way to avoid accidental or intentional drug misuse. It doesn’t only protect your children, but the children of other parents who may come into your home.

10. Take your child to the doctor.

“Routine annual medical visits are an opportunity to ask adolescents about drug use. Standardized screening tools are available to help pediatricians, dentists, emergency room doctors, psychiatrists, and other clinicians determine an adolescent’s level of involvement (if any) in tobacco, alcohol, and illicit and non-medical prescription drug use. When an adolescent reports substance use, the health care provider can assess its severity and either provide an onsite brief intervention or refer the teen to a substance abuse treatment program.” If taking your child to a doctor is an issue for you financially, reach out to your state or county department of health to find options for affordable healthcare.

11. Know your family history.

Genetics does matter when it comes to the statistical probability of developing a substance abuse problem. “Many other risk factors, including genetic vulnerability, prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs, lack of parental supervision or monitoring, and association with drug-using peers also play an important role. At the same time, a wide range of genetic and environmental influences that promote strong psychosocial development and resilience may work to balance or counteract risk factors, making it ultimately hard to predict which individuals will develop substance use disorders and which won’t.”

12. Know the symptoms of your kids using drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “If an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason—such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:

  • a change in peer group
  • carelessness with grooming
  • a decline in academic performance
  • missing classes or skipping school
  • loss of interest in favorite activities
  • trouble in school or with the law
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • deteriorating relationships with family members and friends”

13. If they’ve already started using, get them to help immediately.

If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms stated above, now is the time to get help. Denial is not an option when it comes to the possibility of your child using and abusing drugs. Know that they and you are not alone in finding help to stop the abuse before it becomes a problem. Turn to resources such as your child’s pediatrician, teachers, school administration or social workers, church, local adolescent addiction support group, or local rehab center. All can help you get the journey to recovery started. Keeping your child away from drugs is one of the hardest issues to overcome as a parent. Your success at this can make an honest difference in the lifelong health and wellness of your children. Thankfully, if your kid has a difficult time resisting drugs, there are options for support. At Northpoint Washington, there are therapies tailored specifically for adolescents. Our goal is to break the cycle of addiction early.