Young people from all backgrounds may be tempted to smoke, drink and take drugs. Your biggest worry may be the consequences that drug and alcohol consumption may have on your children. These concerns can lead you believe that:
- Using any kind of drug automatically leads to addiction.
- If your child consumes drugs then you are a bad parent.
- Drugs can cause social problems.
- Everyone views drug consumption as evil.
These concerns can cause communication problems between you and your children with regards to drug issues. Parents often can’t understand why children would want to use drugs.
You may feel aprehensive talking to your children about drugs and could be unsure as to what approach to take. You may think that you:
- Don’t have enough knowledge about drugs.
- Don’t know what to do if your child is using any kind of drug.
- Don’t know what signs to look out for.
- Don’t know how to raise the issue with your child.
- Don’t know where to get information.
It is important to start talking to your child as early as possible in order to develop a trusting relationship. This may potentially help to protect them against substance abuse/misuse. If there is a history of addiction within the family, your child's risk of developing a drug related problem is higher therefore it is crucial to talk about it.
We suggest that you:
- Inform yourself about drugs.
- Set an example.
- Set clear boundaries.
- Always keep lines of communication open.
Set an example
We expect our children to adhere the advice we give them but the reality is children inevitably mimic our behaviour. Your attitude towards alcohol, tobacco and medicine usage in your home will influence how your children behave towards these substances.
What messages are you conveying to your children if you:
- Habitually drink alcohol at home.
- Often smoke cigarettes in their presence.
- Often come home drunk.
- Take tablets/pills for no apparent reason.
What you can do as a parent?
Always remember you are your child's role model. They are observing your behaviour and as children they will imitate your actions. Children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to start smoking themselves, compared to those with non-smoking parents.
It is suggested you give up smoking before your children reach the age of 12. Children receive a substantial amount of health education at school and as such they are aware of the dangers of smoking. Consequently they will be receptive to your good example and at the same time this will provide you with a further incentive to give up the habit.
The more health conscience you are the better example you set for your children. Set clear boundaries about what is acceptable in your family. Many parents fear confrontation but children actually feel safer and loved when you set clear rules.
Setting up and enforcing rules is not easy. You may worry that strict rules will alienate your children from you.
Children also need to be clear about the consequences of breaking the rules. Try not to overreact with harsh punishments as this will cause resentment and undermine your authority.