The choices your kids make when it comes to using alcohol or other drugs can change their own lives, and also affect the lives of families and our community.
Drug use is not without risk. At first, the use of alcohol and other drugs may seem small, but it can spiral quickly out of control. Substance misuse impacts brain development and puts kids at risk of poor health, bad relationships and risks of injury or violence.
As a parent, the biggest thing you can do to prevent your children from using drugs is to build a strong relationship with them from the day they are born. It starts with the first touch, the first diaper change, the first word, the first step. The attachment and relationship you build with your child protects against substance use and other illness.
As children get older, they take on new roles and friendships. To a parent, it may seem like you have less influence on your teenagers than the messages they get from media and from their friends. But, positive attachment to a parent or caregiver is still a major protective factor against substance use.
For example, 3 out of 4 teenagers see a great risk of upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends if they smoke cannabis or use other drugs. It is important to set out your expectations with your kids around drug use and to keep the door open for them to talk to you about anything.
Drug use increases significantly during transition points, like between senior grades of elementary and secondary school, or between secondary school and higher education. Students can be more vulnerable to trying substances because of:
- Peer pressure
- Pressures they put on themselves
- Feelings of isolation or alienation
- Changes in their bodies
- Changes in their friendships, or their environment
Parenting is a difficult role, especially when it comes to your children and drugs. To prevent or delay initiation of drug use, talk and connect with your children by having a trusting relationship that is open for them to talk to you:
- Be their parent, not their friend. Set expectations and boundaries, and then speak and act with love and kindness
- Keep lines of communication open and show you are willing to hear them
- Build a good relationship early – from the first day of their lives.
- Provide the opportunity to build resiliency, improve problem-solving and healthy decision-making skills.
- Build internet literacy skills – teach your kids how to search the internet for reliable information.
- Educate yourself on the risks of substance use, so you can have a fact-based conversation with them. You don’t have to know everything about drugs, but you can agree to look for information together or to come back with information.
- Find out what is going on in their lives. Build healthy coping skills with your kids and monitor their moods and emotions for signs of mental illness that might need treatment.
- Never buy alcohol or other drugs for your children. Don’t allow children to use substances under your supervision – kids will quickly make the jump to using them away from you.