So here’s the good news: according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the levels of drug abuse among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders is trending downward. Many of the drugs studied are at their lowest levels of use since the study began. Even prescription drugs like opioids are at an all time low amongst teens. Hooray!
The bad news is that teen drug use has not been eradicated and it probably never will. Teenagers like to experiment. They’re more likely to succumb to peer pressure. And as the therapists at www.hotelcaliforniabythesea.com have noted, drug use, abuse, and treatment is much different for young adults than older adults.
As a parent, it is totally normal to want to protect your children from all of the harms in the world. And, when those children become teenagers, it is totally normal to want to seal them in their bedrooms and monitor all of their contact with the outside world. This urge has become even stronger since the internet reached the ubiquity stage and much of teen communication and entertainment moved away from the easily observable.
Seriously, schools use tablets now. No more having just one computer for the whole family that sits against a wall of the living room where anybody can walk by and snoop over someone’s shoulders! Even with monitoring apps and parental controls, your kids are going to find ways to sneak around. It’s how they try to take control over their lives and experiment with adulthood. It’s a normal part of growing up, and it’s a normal part of parenting to hate it.
So what can you do? And even if you do everything right, aren’t your kids likely to experiment with drugs and drinking anyway?
Yes, probably. Still, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.
The first thing you need to do is develop your poker face. If you freak out every time your kids try to talk to you about the behaviors in which they are experimenting or that they observe in their friends, they’ll stop sharing these details with you. You can still freak out on the inside, of course, but do your best to present a calm and even response even when you want to tear out your hair. If you stay calm and positive, your kids are more likely to tell you what they’re dealing with and you’ll be better to able to spot problems in their early stages.
Figuring out how to talk to your kids about drugs and drinking can be difficult. Even so, you have to do it. And you cannot wait for your kids to come to you. Ask them questions about their days, their classes, their friends, their friends’ classes and families. Remember the details. The more interest you take in your kids’ lives the less likely they are to try to slip something by you.
Set Up Support Early
We aren’t advocating that you toss your teen into rehab after his or her first drink. Of course not! What we mean is that it’s important that, in addition to having stable boundaries and rules, it’s important to reinforce the idea that when your kids need help, they should come to you. Even if they think it’s nothing. Even if they are embarrassed. And this is where your poker face is going to come in handy because these times are when you need to be supportive instead of judgmental.
No matter what they think and feel, no teen is truly ready to take total control over his or her life. Even so, if you start noticing problematic behavior, it is important that you resist the urge to completely control your teen’s life. Yes, privileges can be taken away, but if you want to help your teens stand up to peer pressure and get the help they need if they develop dependency on drugs or alcohol, they need to feel like they are making a choice. Talk to your teens about what kind of resolutions they’d like to see or what kind of help they think they need. You don’t have to give them exactly what they want, but including them in the conversation will make the decision to get help feel like something they can own. And the more ownership your teen feels, the more likely he or she is to get back on the right path.
Adolescence is rough on everyone. Puberty is awful. Everyone will make mistakes. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it, and so will your kids.