Teens and young adults face more challenges and have more access to drugs and alcohol than ever before. Consequently, parents face more challenges in ensuring that their children grow into healthy, productive adults. Parenting is difficult; parenting well is even more difficult. Below are seven things a parent can do to ensure that their teen does not develop a substance abuse problem, and can assist as a teen substance abuse prevention.
Model good behavior. Perhaps the most important thing a parent can do for their teen is set a good example. Adolescents model their behavior on those who are important to them and those with whom they frequently interact. Parents have the opportunity to mitigate the risk factors that their teen faces by exhibiting the behaviors and attitudes that they want to see their teen develop. Take opportunities to exercise respectable characteristics. Handle adversity in a healthy and productive way, and not with negativity, stress and anxiety. Be the change you want to see in your teen.
Avoid risky behavior. Teens and young adults become particularly vulnerable when they witness parental drug or alcohol use. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism or engaging in casual drug use with prescription medication is extremely dangerous for a teen to witness. Regularly consuming alcohol to excess or smoking marijuana may have a stronger impact on a child than the parent realizes. Avoid engaging in the behavior that you do not want your teen to engage.
Develop a supportive relationship. Teens are more likely to hide substance use and information from their parents when they feel like they will be met with judgement, anger, or criticism. Foster a relationship that is built on trust and open communication. Be the adult that your teen feels like they can confide in, and offer supportive and positive advice and guidance.
Set clear boundaries. Parental permissiveness leads to substance abuse. An overly tolerant parent may think that there is nothing wrong with their teen “having a beer once in a while,” but this is a dangerous path. When a teen views his or her actions as even mildly permissible, they will challenge how far that permission extends.
Communicate expectations and consequences. Teens must clearly know what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they break the rules. They will undoubtedly challenge the parent’s assertiveness and intent on following through, but sticking to the rules and enforcing punishments is fundamental to establishing a sense of responsibility.
Monitor and supervise. Parents should know where their child is, with whom they are spending time, and what they are doing. Knowing the crowd they keep and what activities in which they are engaged is essential.
Inform. Discuss drug and alcohol issues with your teen and inform them of the risks and consequences of substance abuse. Knowledge is power. The more your teen knows about the harmful effects, the less likely they are to abuse drugs or alcohol.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that substance abuse is quickly becoming the most significant problem facing teens and young adults today. The risk factors that lead to substance abuse in teens and young adults are a combination of genetic and environmental influences. While the genetic factors are non-modifiable, the environmental factors can be controlled.
Ensuring that teens avoid this dangerous path requires strong parental role models committed to putting the protective factors in place that will prevent their teen from abusing drugs and alcohol. Communicate, supervise and guide, but more importantly, be the kind of person who you are asking your teen to be. All of these noted tips can aide in successful teen substance abuse prevention.