No demographic is safe from substance addiction because it happens in every ethnicity, every socioeconomic group, and every geographic region regardless of social status or wealth. At the root of substance addiction lies some sort of unvented emotional stress that eventually swallows the person up from the inside. Every substance abuse story begins at home, therefore, parents play the most crucial role in understanding the reason kids may be tempted to start using addictive substances and giving them accurate information about the risk factors. The earlier parents start to arm their children with protective factors, the greater their chances are to prevent their kids from addiction.
As the foremost step, parents should understand the harsh reality that every child is vulnerable to addiction because of popular media, peer pressure, and easy access to addictive substances. According to the Mott Poll Report, only 10% of parents think their teens drink and only 5% believe that they use marijuana. However, in reality, 52% of the teens reported drinking and 28% of them reported using marijuana. This shows that the overall use rate of addictive substances for teens are five times higher than what their parents expected.
The second important step for parents is to give their children accurate information about the risk factors and the dangers of addictive substances. Teens who rely on uncredible sources such as peers and social media for information about addictive substances are twice more likely to have intentions to use addictive substances in the future than teens who rely on credible sources such as parents and school education programs. Parents should remember that the earlier their children start using addictive substances, the more damage they do to their brains and the greater chance they are to develop substance use disorder as adults.
The last step is to build strong, sturdy relationships with your kids. Regardless of how much you try to monitor your kid’s lives, no amount of surveillance can take the place of having a working relationship with your kids. Knowing your child’s goals, hopes, interests, and fears are more important than tracking their location. To codify family expectations, you can create a family contact and set clear expectations and consequences.
In order to protect kids from using addictive substances, parents should learn the dangers associated with substance use, build strong bonds with their kids, and set clear rules. The best time to talk to your kids about substance abuse is elementary school because children in elementary school most likely have not begun to use addictive substances.
Hafsa Sude Pakel
2021 Red Ribbon Week Team Member at Whitetulip
- The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence by Jessica Lahey