Parents: The Biggest Influence

Have you read the article “Officials alarmed by ‘bad batch’ of drugs in Grand Forks” by Stephen Lee in the June 19 issue of the Grand Forks Herald?  After two teen-aged males died apparently from overdosing on synthetic drugs, federal, state and local law enforcement officials held an emergency meeting Tuesday in Grand Forks.

What can parents?  Here is some helpful information from an NIE tab called Stay Smart, Don’t Start – the Truth About Drugs and Alcohol.  The tab was produced by the Washington Times Newspapers in Education Department and distributed by the NIE Institute. I have posted below an article from the tab called Parents:  The Biggest Influence.

Parents:  The Biggest Influence 

Not Your Kids? Here’s How to Make Sure!  Could you be the parent of a drug abuser? If your immediate reaction is “Not my kid!” you’ve got company. Even kids who are not guilty of any wrongdoing become protective of their privacy during adolescence, and their parents expect this part of growing up. However, kids are masters at hiding what they don’t want you to see. It can take some detective work to be sure your children aren’t abusing drugs or alcohol.

You may have secretly searched his or her room and been relieved not to find any drug paraphernalia. You’ve monitored your child’s My Space or You-Tube or Facebook site and haven’t found any alarming pictures or posts? That could be a good sign. But prescription medications have now become the drug of choice for many teens. Approximately one in five teenagers has reported abusing a prescription medicine, and one in 10 has reported having abused cough medicine. When they combine either with alcohol, the game gets more dangerous.

Here are some tips and suggestions for protection and detection:

•Educate yourself. Learn the slang terms that kids use to describe cough medicine abuse, like Dex, Robo and Triple-C.

•Safeguard medicines at home. Monitor your medicine cabinet and note which products you have and how many.

•Properly throw away medicine that you are no longer using in the trash. It is not wise to keep medicine, such as pain medicines, around for when you might need them in another instance. In the majority of those situations, medicine will have expired or is not the right medicine for your specific injury or ailment. It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider and stay away from self-diagnosing or self-prescribing.

•Communicate with your teen. Talk to your teens about all types of drug abuse, including prescription drug and cough medicine abuse. Studies have shown that kids whose parents discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with them are 50% less likely to use either.

•Teach your kids to respect medicines. Remind your children that it is never safe to abuse prescription and OTC medicines, use someone else’s medications, and it is not OK to do it even just once. Young people are dying or becoming seriously dependent on a variety of drugs.

•Monitor your teens’ Internet usage. Many websites promote medicine abuse, either by providing instructions, abuser communication groups or videos. Always be aware of what your teenagers are doing online.

•Recognize the signs of medicine abuse. The warning signs include missing or empty bottles or packages of prescription or over-the-counter medicines and changes in behavior. If your teen takes medications, you should be in control and dole out the necessary amount.

•Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Listen carefully when your child talks to his or her friends. If you have a gut instinct that a new friend is less than trustworthy, be extra vigilant.

•Double check. As an extra check, have your child call you during the party at a prearranged time—for example, about four hours after the party begins. If you get the “None of the other kids have to do that” response, insist that they can’t go to the party unless they agree to call. Let them know that if you don’t hear from them, you will be calling the house yourself. If they know they will be talking to you at some point during the evening, they may be less likely to drink or take drugs for fear you will be able to “tell.”

•Wait up (or wake up) when your child comes home in the evening. Knowing you’ll be there for “check in” can be a great deterrent to unwise behavior. Have a brief conversation about how the evening went. Watch for signs of odd or unexplained behavior such as slurred speech, unsteady walk or dizziness, sweating, nausea, dilated pupils, drowsiness, vomiting, and numbness of extremities.

•Be a good role model. Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol yourself.

•Most important: TALK. You have undoubtedly seen television and magazine ads advising you to talk to your kids about drugs. Studies have shown that kids whose parents discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with them are 50% less likely to use either. For suggestions on how to do this, see “How to Talk to Your Kids: Teachable Moments” that follows.
While it would be nice if parents could trust their teenagers 100%, it’s a bit unrealistic to do so. Peer pressure is the driving force of much adolescent behavior. Most kids want to feel that they’re part of the group, and it can be hard not to cave in to fit in. While these steps are not easy or pleasant, helping your child make drug- and alcohol-free choices is well worth the effort. Years down the road, they will thank you for doing the right thing today.

How to Talk to Your Kids: Teachable Moments

Notice the word “moments” in the title? That’s because a one-time conversation is not likely to be effective. Just as occasions arise to reinforce math or reading skills, there are particularly good opportunities to talk about drugs and alcohol.

When you’re driving with your teen, you’ve got a captive audience.  An activity you enjoy together, whether it’s fishing or jogging, sets a positive tone for a talk. You might kick it off with a remark about a drug or alcohol related accident or other incident, or a conversation you had with friends about their child’s addiction problems and how difficult it has been for the family.

Newspapers and television also offer teachable moments. Nearly every day there is a story about a drunk driver who has been arrested or an incident related to drugs or alcohol. Television documentaries about drugs present another teachable moment. Watch them together, and discuss them afterwards. Ask your kids questions that require more than a one word answer. For example, ask “Why do you suppose the boy in that story took all those pills?” instead of “Shouldn’t he have known better?”

Remember, whenever and wherever your talks, they should be two-way conversations, not a lecture. Make your family position on drugs and alcohol clear, but show plenty of love and concern—not anger or suspicion. Try for an “open forum” feeling, where everyone feels free to express their opinions and feelings.
When should you have your first talk with your teen? As soon as you can. Be on the lookout for the first teachable moment. Then look for another one. And another. Keep talking.