During our child’s teenage years, our involvement and influence in their lives have a tremendous impact on their ability to confront and handle uncomfortable situations and emotions. In the future, they may experience exposure to drugs and alcohol. It is imperative we equip them with not just the knowledge of substance abuse consequences, but with the emotional tools that can steer them away from that path all-together.
We have the ability to keep our teens safe from alcoholism and addiction, and here’s what to do:
Bring awareness to the subject
Alcoholism and addiction are not happy and comfortable subjects to talk about. Rather, they are issues that need to be treated seriously and spoken about often. Inform your teen about the short and long-term consequences of drugs and alcohol. What may seem like a simple experimentation can turn into a lifelong addiction. Furthermore, a majority of addicts had no intention of becoming addicts in the first place, and your teen is no different nor can they convince themselves that one drink or smoke won’t hurt; many recovering addicts can testify against that with their own experiences.
Introduce them to healthy coping mechanisms
High school is going to be overwhelming for your teen. They’re stressed because there are countless exams to study for, piles of homework, college plans to consider, after-school activities to keep up with, a social life to maintain, and they need to maintain their own personal well-being in the midst of all that! This stress may cause them to act irrationally, such as taking dangerous drugs to help them study for a test or cope with anxiety by turning to a substance that temporarily numbs their body. Encourage your teen to discover new hobbies and emphasize that expressing stress through a creative or healthy outlet is not only healthy, it’s fulfilling for their self-esteem and confidence. In conjunction, learn new ways to deal with stress together such as relaxing in mindful and silent solitude or taking slow, deep breaths. By directing your teen towards healthy and reliable activities and coping mechanisms, you won’t have to worry about what they are doing on a bad day without your supervision.
Communicate daily and often with them
Try to be your teen’s friend. Now, you don’t necessarily have to talk about serious or deep things with every moment alone with them! To put it simply: get to know them. Be consistent with asking how their day has been or how they have been feeling. Acknowledge their feelings and validate what they share with you. Gradually, it will become easier for them to communicate freely and honestly with you about any subject. Evidently, your teen will undeniably want more of your involvement in their life! Genuine communication builds a foundation of trust between the two of you and solidifies to them your intention of being caring and concerned, not interrogative or intrusive.
Set an example with your own actions
Be someone you would want to admire and respect. That will unquestionably illustrate itself to your teen. Don’t be a parent that speaks negatively about drugs and alcohol but uses them yourself. Being hypocritical not only sets a bad example for your teen – you will have no credibility in their eyes whatsoever for anything. Why would anyone, especially your own child, want to trust you who does the exact opposite of what they criticize?
Our teenagers are wonderful and unique people and we always want to trust them to make the right decisions, but everyone faces an unexpected and negative roadblock that can consequently impact their life sometimes. Because we are parents, we have a responsibility to positively influence our children and guide them the best we can. While alcoholism and addiction are uncomfortable topics to talk about, they are important to confront. But by sitting down and bringing awareness to the subject, our teens will gain awareness, learn of healthier alternatives to express their emotions, and hopefully seek to attain fulfilling lives that do not include drugs or alcohol.