As parents, our primary concern is not only to help our children grow but also to keep them safe in the process. The modern world presents a lot of threats to the well-being of your child, and one of the most serious is substance abuse.
Government data from 2016 revealed that at least 130 million people age 12 or older admit to being current alcohol users. About half of them have become habitual drinkers, and a fourth has become really heavy drinkers. These numbers are already alarming, but we have yet to even consider those who fell prey to tobacco or worse, illegal drugs.
Fortunately, keeping our children safe from these modern traps is totally possible. The solutions may not be easy all the time, but they are surely less costly and less stressful than having to send the child to a drug rehab facility. Preventing substance abuse is always better than treating it through rehab, which actually offers not cures, but management strategies that help mitigate the bad effects of substance dependence.
Surround them with worthy models.
It is an established fact in psychology that people, especially children, learn through observation. This means that your child doesn’t really have to experience anything first-hand for them to gain the capacity to produce a similar behavior in the future.
As parents, we must exercise reasonable control over the people that we let into our homes. These people will surely be seen by the children. If they exhibit undesirable behaviors such as incessant smoking or drinking, the kids might copy them, especially at times when we are not there to provide proper supervision.
Encourage participation in community and after-school activities.
Social support is a strong predictor of well-being. In fact, a longitudinal study done by Harvard researchers found that being in quality relationships is one of the most potent predictors of happiness even later in life.
Social support doesn’t always have to come from parents or family members. Sometimes, the support that has the most meaning in the child’s specific context is the one that they get from friends. Because of this, it is important that children are encouraged to go out and be social, to enjoy interactions and be taught how to value and maintain fulfilling friendships.
One good way to help them win friends is to allow them to participate in interest-based group activities after school. Is your child good at basketball? Is she really into dancing and music? Or does he love to draw and tell stories? With the help of other concerned parents and the rest of community, safe and supportive groups for a variety of interests can be built.
Be there for them and communicate your availability.
Kids sometimes fall into substance use because they feel that they are alone, that they have no one to turn to in times of need. Of course, one good way to keep them from going astray is being there for them. However, even if parents really are there, some children still end up not feeling their presence. We all know how perception is sometimes more powerful than reality.
Because of this, it is important for parents to actively communicate their availability. Clearly, this requires more than just talking. Making them feel that you are there for them may require you to be physically present and available—Not only on days that they are celebrating, such as graduations and championship games, but also on days that they feel the weight of the world is upon them, such as when they fail exams.
Yes, doing such things takes time and effort. But remember, the children should always get the best of you, not what’s left of you.