Research shows that, in spite of what some parents believe, teens do listen to their parents and care what they think.
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Keeping Kids Safe
To keep kids healthy and safe, here is some helpful advice for parents:
Know your teen's plans and tell them to update you if the itinerary changes so you're aware of their whereabouts.
Check in with them via text. They're more likely to reply, since it's discreet. You can send messages like, "Hope ur having a gr8 time!" or "U ok?"
Trust your teen and resist the urge to hover. If you've filled them in on the rules and risks, chances are they got the message.
It's important for parents to provide leadership, guidance and boundaries for their teens. Kids report that parents are their #1 reason why they choose not to use alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
“My parents and I have never had the drug and alcohol use talk. They assume that I know everything there is to know about it from school in health class.” – A.G., Maine East sophomore
- The majority of teens say the greatest risk in using marijuana is upsetting their parents (69%), followed by losing the respect of friends and family (67.2%).
- Youth who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use illicit drugs.
- Kids who learn about the risks of marijuana and other illicit drugs from their parents are far less likely to use drugs.
- Adolescents who have high-quality relationships with their parent are less likely to initiate sex or be sexually active.
- When family monitoring and rules are in place, adolescents are much less likely to begin using alcohol or drugs, primarily by affecting the teen’s choice of friends.
- Make sure they know that most Maine Township teens make healthy choices not to drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs.
Take Action: Strategies for Parents
- Monitor alcohol use in your home and keep track of the supply.
- Make it clear to your teen that you don’t allow non-chaperoned parties or other teen gatherings in your home.
- When possible, encourage him/her to invite friends over when you are at home (the more entertaining your teen does in your home, the more you will know about your teen’s friends and activities).
- Connect with other parents – call the party host to make sure that a responsible adult will be present and that alcohol will not be available.
- Keep track of your teen’s activities, plans and whereabouts (because you care, not because of distrust).
- Establish clear “No Alcohol”, “No Tobacco”, “No Drug” rules and expectations.
- Set a good example.
- Use alcohol moderately or not at all in front of your child.
- Don’t communicate to your child that alcohol is a good way to handle problems. For example, don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink.”
- Instead, let your child see that you have healthy ways to cope with stress such as exercise, listening to music, talking things over with a spouse, partner or friend.
- Don’t tell stories about your own drinking in a way that conveys the message that alcohol use is funny or glamorous.
- Never drink and drive or ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
- When you entertain other adults, make alcohol-free beverages and plenty of food available. If anyone drinks too much at a party, make arrangements for them to get home safely.
- Don’t support teen drinking. It's illegal, dangerous, and unhealthy.
- Help your child build healthy friendships. If his/her friends use, your teen is more likely to use, too. Encourage your teen to develop friendships with kids who do not drink or use. Getting to know your child’s friends is the first step.
Honesty is the Best Policy
If your teen asks, “Did you ever do drugs?” and the answer is No – great, tell him or her so and why you made that choice.
If the answer is Yes, experts agree that it’s best to be honest. Answering this question untruthfully can cause you to lose credibility with your kids if they ever discover that you’ve lied to them. You don’t need to go into detail, but give a short honest answer like one of these:
“When I was a kid, I took drugs because some of my friends did. I thought I needed to in order to fit in. We didn’t know then as much as we do now about drugs and their effects on the teen brain, and they are more lethal today than they were back then. If I’d known then about the consequences, I never would have tried drugs, and I’ll do everything I can to help you keep away from them.”
“Everybody makes mistakes. When I used drugs, I made a big mistake. I’m telling you about this, even though it’s embarrassing, because I love you and I want to save you from making the same stupid decision I made when I was your age.”
Know the Signs of Use/Abuse
- Sudden changes in personality without another known cause
- Fascination with drug culture (clothing, music, movies)
- Loss of interest in once favorite hobbies, sports and other activities
- Sudden decline in performance or attendance at school or work
- Deterioration of personal grooming habits
- Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness
- Changes in friends and reluctance to talk about new friends
- Sudden aggressive behavior, irritability, nervousness, or giddiness
- Increased secretiveness, heightened sensitivity to inquiry
- Increase in borrowing money, unaccounted for cash, especially in small denominations
- Evidence of drugs/paraphernalia (rolling papers, eye drops, butane lighters, pipes)
- New use of Febreze or dryer sheets, incense or room/car deodorant
- Sudden, frequent use of breath mints or mouthwash
- Sudden use of strong perfume or cologne
What should I do if I suspect my teen is using drugs?
- Speak to a professional (school counselor or treatment provider) to discuss your concerns and determine the next steps.
- Set up an assessment with a substance use professional – he/she will know what to ask and be able to determine the level of help needed to guide your teen toward safety.
- Take your child in for a drug screen, or get a drug test kit at a pharmacy and keep it handy. Make a sudden request for a sample when you suspect he/she has been using (morning after a night out, concert, etc.)
- See www.timetoact.drugfree.org -- an excellent resource -- walks you through two options...if you SUSPECT your child is using or you KNOW your child is using.
Data Sources: SAMHSA. (2005). National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2004. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website, www.drugabuse.gov and www.monitoringthefuture.org The Monitoring the Future Study 2005, Partnership for a Drug-Free America (2005).