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Parents Can Greatly Influence Children’s Choices

Your kids listen to you. Wait…what? It’s true. When it comes to the subject of drugs and alcohol, your kids are paying attention to what you’re saying.

And according to JoinTogether.org, statistics prove that kids who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol abuse from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not. 

Parents from all over the Valley call me when they’re worried about their kids using. “I think he’s doing drugs, what can I do?” they ask. “She’s sleeping all the time, what should I do?” My answer is simply, “Talk to your kids.”

It may be an uncomfortable topic, but just talking with them about the dangers can open the floodgates. You can be their best resource. You may find you have nothing to worry about, or you may find your child needs some help. 

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reiterates that building a close relationship with your children will increase the likelihood they come to you for help in making decisions that impact their health and well-being. 

Teens say they rely on adults in their lives more than anyone else to help them make tough decisions and provide them with good advice. Who would have thought?

At Meridian, we believe that preventing addictions starts with teaching kids, from a young age, that drugs and alcohol can have devastating effects. At age 6 children know that drinking alcohol is only for adults, but from ages 9-13 they begin to think it’s OK if they try it. That’s why it’s never too early to begin the conversation about harmful behaviors.

When talking with your kids about this touchy subject, it’s important to remain calm, share your concerns and above all —listen. Let them discuss their fears, but at the same time celebrate their successes. You can help them get through the tough stuff by talking to them about what is positive in their life.

Talking is important, but there are other steps you should consider also. Set limits with clear consequences, and always monitor your child’s behavior and attitude. 

Consider getting help from professionals. Some agencies in the area, including Meridian, offer free consultations. Parents can even use this resource when they aren’t sure how to discuss a problem with their children.

In an earlier column I mentioned our in-school program, PANDA Leaders Club, that empowers kids to live healthy, drug-free lifestyles. We’ve also organized summits to discuss the issues our kids face and get more people involved in the fight.

At a recent meeting, parents from the Valley acknowledged that they have seen drugs everywhere — in every school, every neighborhood. 

Searching for ways to connect with our kids, the group came up with some suggestions. Have dinner with your kids. Talk to them about what’s going on in their lives. Take advantage of the time spent in the car with your kids on your way to soccer practices and dance recitals. 

I realize that it’s viewed as something from Leave It to Beaver, but a family dinner even once or twice a week can really help get children engaged with their families.

The math is simple: the more time you spend with your kids, the less likely they are to try drugs and alcohol. And the more you’re together talking, the more likely it is they will discuss problems with you before the problems get out of control.

It’s simple — but it’s not easy. Starting to talk to your kids about these issues is almost as tough as talking to them about sex. You’re going to see a fair share of eye-rolling in the beginning, that’s for sure. But once you’ve established a regular, no-pressure dialogue, you’ll be honestly able to say, “My kids listen to me!” More importantly, they’ll be able to say, “My parents listen to me.”