All parents worry about their teenagers getting involved in drugs and alcohol. You want your teen to grow up to be a happy, successful person with a family of their own. The last thing you want is for them to develop an addiction that will ruin their life.
Addictions are much easier to prevent than to treat. So how do you keep your teens from ever getting into drugs and alcohol in the first place?
It pays to know the most common situations in which teens experiment with drugs and drinking. You should also know teen risk factors and which teens will most likely try bad substances.
Teens are likely to use drugs and alcohol when they’re feeling peer pressure or have lots of free time.
This doesn’t mean you should overschedule your teen so they have activities every second of every day. You don’t want to put too much stress on them. However, be aware of times when your teen doesn’t have much going on:
Summer brings parties and lots of time for teens to lounge around with friends, primarily because they don’t have the pressures of school to worry about. If they don’t have a job, they often have nowhere to go during the day. Especially if all adults in the household work full time, teens are likely freer to do whatever they want.
Unfortunately, sometimes this means experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Boredom can make teens want to try something that seems new and exciting.
Consider enrolling your adolescents in summer activities. They will be less likely to try drugs if they are busy and engaged in a program.
Sleepovers are another time when teens are generally left alone with a big group of friends. This is a great opportunity for peer pressure to take over.
If friends at the sleepover suggest drug or alcohol use, your teen might not want to feel left out or show fear. Since everyone spends the night, it’s also more embarrassing to leave and go home.
Some parents choose to avoid sleepovers altogether. As an alternative, you can give your teen a code word they can text to you so you know to come get them and say they have to come home.
Let your teen know that you will always pick them up, no matter what time they call and no matter where they are. Even if you think it’s inconvenient at the time, you’d much rather lose some sleep than have your teen get pressured into drug and alcohol use.
Kids who don’t have much going on after school have a greater risk of doing drugs and alcohol.
This doesn’t mean you have to put your kids in every available after-school program. However, you should make sure they at least do all their homework every day. School work can be enough to keep them home and engaged.
When your teen does go out after school with friends, know where they are and what they’re doing. Your teen should also have a clear curfew.
Skipping school is dangerous for more than your teen’s grades. When your teen leaves school with friends, peer pressure goes along for the ride. Your teen also won’t tell you when they’re cutting class, which means you won’t know where they are.
Let your teen know you will always come pick them up from a dangerous situation. In the case of skipping school, you’ll even save the punishment for later. This way your teen will know they can trust you and won’t be too afraid of getting in trouble to ask you for help.
Not every teen is going to use drugs and alcohol on summer vacation or after school hours. So how do you know if your teen is at risk? First of all, you should know your individual child. Second, you should know the common risk factors:
Drugs cost money. If you live in an upscale neighborhood and give your teen a large allowance, or if they have wealthy friends, you should be aware of how they spend their money.
Adolescence is a hard time of life. When they’re facing a lot of stress, teens are more inclined to seek relief through getting drunk or high.
Problems at School
School can play into the stress factor. If your teen feels all alone or faces bullies every day, it’s more tempting to look for an escape.
Mental Health Issues
When teens suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, they are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. Make sure they are getting the proper treatment for their condition.
Your teen is more likely to use drugs and alcohol if they have been sexually or physically abused in the past. Investigate treatment programs that can help resolve any lingering issues.
Things like moving and divorce are tough on teens. If you feel your teen struggles to transition after a big change, therapy can help them work through their feelings.
In sum: No parent wants their teen to face addiction. Look out for risk factors, and help your teen stay away from bad situations. When your teen knows they have you on their side, they’ll find it easier to say no to peer pressure and stay clean.