Back to School Alert: How to Prepare Your Kids for Drug-Related Peer Pressure
Now that kids are back in school, it is perfectly understandable for parents to feel a bit of relief. Instead of moms and dads tending to their children nearly 24/7 during the summer, teachers will be educating and entertaining them. Coaches and activity instructors will be training them.
Classmates will be tempting, coercing, and pressuring them to experiment with drugs.
Back-to-school season requires parents to shift their focus toward a different set of priorities, namely, how to keep their kids safe from alcohol, drugs, and the harms that come with them when parents are not around.
Believe it or not, the National Crime Prevention Council advises parents to begin preparing their children to resist drug use as early as the fourth grade. Even if their elementary school kids are not exposed to drugs, parents can still work to reduce the risk factors for future drug abuse by teaching children:
- Emotional awareness
- Social problem-solving
For kids of any age, a significant part of preventing them from turning to drugs involves playing an active role in their lives. That means attending their school events (recitals, plays, sports competitions, etc.) and encouraging their efforts. It may also require parents to facilitate social interaction with their peers (perhaps through civic service groups, playdates, or community events). Most importantly, moms and dads should strive to be positive role models for their children so that their opinion carries some weight when kids have questions about various topics such as drug use.
Parents should be cautious about befriending their children without regard for the importance of structure. When kids are governed by a set of clear, consistently-enforced (but not overly harsh) rules, research indicates they are more likely to eschew drugs. Though it can be challenging in practice, the process is relatively simple. Lay out the rules in advance, discuss expectations with your kids, praise and thank them when the rules are followed, and impose consequences when they are not.
However, the most important aspect of protecting children from the menace of drug abuse is communication. Parents should make time to talk with their kids every day about all topics and then listen to their responses. In terms of drugs, it helps to objectively explain the legal, educational, and personal ramifications should they be caught using illegal drugs. Finally, kids need to know that their parents will be disappointed if they use drugs, but that they will still be loved.
Even after taking all these measures, parents still need to remain vigilant about watching for indications of the presence of drugs in their children’s lives. Some common indicators of drug use include:
- Sudden loss of interest in friends or social activities
- Declining grades
- Unexplained physical changes for a prolonged period of time
- Evasive answers to questions or other overly secretive behavior
- Missing money or valuables from the home
- Loss of memory or an increase in forgetfulness
Obviously, the presence of drugs or drug paraphernalia is a clear sign, even if the kids claim to be “holding them for a friend.”
If you discover that your child has been using drugs on a regular basis, they will need your support more than ever (even if they may not want it) to overcome this problem. There are plenty of places to turn for help with teen substance abuse, and many kids with drug problems kick the habit and grow up to be normal, well-adjusted adults.
It can be challenging to prepare kids for the dangers of the real world. To safeguard your children against the scourge of drugs and empower them to resist peer pressure at school, a little prevention goes a long way.
Contact Next Generation Village today to talk with an addiction specialist if you are concerned that your child may be using drugs.