Addiction takes a toll on the body, mind and spirit. We never want our children to suffer, and keeping kids off of drugs is a constant struggle for parents, teachers and numerous government and community organizations.
The good news is that parents can have a major influence over whether their child drinks or does drugs, and it doesn’t even involve lecturing and threatening. According to an enormous body of research, here are the top five ways to help your child avoid addiction.
1. Support and monitor your child
Engaging in supportive behaviors and monitoring your child can go a long way toward helping your child avoid addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 7.3 percent of children whose parents always or sometimes helped them with homework reported past-month illicit drug use, compared to 14.7 percent of children whose parents never or seldom did.
Simply asking about homework and whether it’s done gives your child the impression that you care. So does knowing where they are going to be and with whom, praising them for a job well done on the dishes and engaging in other positive and supportive interactions with them.
2. Talk to your child early and often
It’s never too early or too late to start engaging your child in age-appropriate conversations about drug and alcohol use, and it can be a major deterrent for substance abuse. In 2013, over 88 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 reported that they knew their parents would strongly disapprove of them trying marijuana. Among these youths, only 4.1 percent currently used marijuana, compared with 29.3 percent of those whose parents did not express disapproval.
Give your child clear expectations about drug use, and let them know what the consequences of using will be.
3. Model responsible behaviors
Children develop their beliefs about substance use based on their parents’ actions rather than their words. Children imitate their parents’ healthy—and unhealthy—behaviors. For example, teens whose parents give up smoking are more likely to quit as well or choose not to start in the first place.
Leaving drugs, drug paraphernalia or cigarettes around the house or using alcohol irresponsibly gives children the impression that these things are acceptable, and it increases their risk of using drugs or alcohol themselves. Conversely, avoiding drugs and modeling responsible behaviors when you drink can help prevent substance abuse later on.
4. Know your child’s risk
A number of risk factors can increase your child’s risk of addiction. To help your child avoid addiction, have a mental health professional address any mental illnesses like eating disorders, anxiety or depression. High-stress teens are twice as likely as low-stress teens to abuse drugs or alcohol, including nicotine, so help your child reduce their stress and learn how to handle stress in healthy ways.
5. Spend quality time with your child
Spending quality time with your child is another highly effective way to help your child avoid addiction. Plan family activities that promote relaxation and enjoying each other’s company. Bonding with your child regularly helps you develop mutual trust and respect, and they’ll be more likely to abstain from self-destructive behaviors like drug abuse.
Make a point to have dinner together most nights. Research by Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse consistently shows that teenagers who frequently eat dinner with their families are at half the risk of substance abuse as those who don’t.
To Help Your Child Avoid Addiction, Stay Proactive, and Know the Signs
To help your child avoid addiction, take a multi-pronged approach that involves positive support, modeling, conversations and spending quality time together. Know the signs of teen substance abuse, and take swift action at the first sign.