They say that prevention is always easier than a cure, and this certainly seems to be the case when it comes to addiction problems. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health in the US has started a program to encourage parents to actively discourage their children from developing substance abuse problems. There is good evidence that parents can do a great deal to keep their kids on track in life, so hopefully similar programs will be adopted here in the UK.
Can Parents Win Over Peer Pressure?
One of the most common reasons why children begin experimenting with alcohol or drugs is peer pressure. They see their friends using these substances and they do not want to miss out. There is also the problem that substance abuse is glamorised in the media and children are very curious and want to experiment. There is a great deal of pressure on kids to try these drugs, but the reality is the biggest influence in their life is still going to be the parents.
Mothers and fathers can do a great deal to discourage their children from experimenting with alcohol or drugs. One of the first things they need to do is set a good example. If parents are abusing these substances, the child is then going to grow up believing that this behaviour is normal. It can be very hard for kids to accept that something is dangerous when they see their parents doing the same thing. This type of mixed single is the most common reason why parents are ineffective when it comes to discouraging their children from abusing alcohol or drugs.
Parents can do a great deal to discourage their children from using alcohol or drugs by being honest with them and educating them to the dangers. It is important not to exaggerate these dangers because kids can rebel if they find out they are being misled. There are enough real dangers to this type of behaviour already, so there is no need to exaggerate anything. It is not enough just to tell children about these dangers – they also need to understand exactly how substance abuse could ruin their future.
It is important to have an open and honest relationship with children. They need to understand that they can come and talk to their parents about anything. This is important because if kids are thinking about using alcohol or drugs, they may want to talk about it. Even if they don’t come out and say it directly, it will be possible to have a proper conversation on the topic. Parents can give their child clear reasons why they need to avoid using these substances, which can be enough to keep them safe.
Children Who Are Most at Risk of Substance Abuse
There is still much that is unknown about addiction. It is not clear why some people develop this type of problem and why some do not; it seems to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some children are going to be more at risk of developing this type of problem, including:
- children dealing with any type of mental health problem; they can turn to substance abuse as a form of self-medication
- those who have experienced any type of abuse or trauma
- children who are dealing with low self esteem
- those who have grown up in an environment where substance abuse is considered normal behaviour
- kids who are impulsive or prone to risk taking
- children with a close relative who has been addicted to alcohol or drugs