Substance abuse

DR. ROBERT WALLACE: How to talking to teens about substance abuse | News

TEENS: Every few years, I feel it’s important to pass along some public service information about a variety of topics. It is always important to be in a position to help as many others as possible when we go about our business in our daily lives. One never knows when or where a need to assist might arise.

And since the huge preponderance of advice administered here is directed at teens, every so often I feel it’s important to address a few issues that parents of teenagers must deal with. Accordingly, we have recently received a lot of communications from parents regarding the dangers of drug and substance use and abuse, especially now when fentanyl can be found almost anywhere at any time.

Here then are professional suggestions culled by my team and me that help construct a roadmap for parents here in 2023. Often, the most effective tool that concerned parents can mobilize is an ever-present awareness of what is going on in each of their teenager’s lives. Here are the best recommendations that have been complied over the past few years:

No. 1: Know and recognize the signs of drug and/or alcohol abuse and act swiftly if you suspect your teenager may be involved in one or more substances.

No. 2: Always be supportive of your local community anti-drug programs. Make it a point to attend a few of their events, as doing so will demonstrate to your teenager that you are taking a keen interest in drug awareness and prevention.

No. 3: Get to know the parents of all of your teenager’s friends. Parents should make it a point to communicate with other parents regularly and be sure that each family knows and understands the rules and standards that each family expects their teenagers to live by.

No. 4: Always be on the lookout for teachable moments with your teenager. Discuss important topics whenever a scene in a movie you’re watching together comes up that can provide an opportunity. Also take advantage of television programs, magazines, newspapers or even conversations with other people whenever the topics of drug and alcohol abuse come up.

No. 5: Be clear about your expectations with your teenager. Be consistent at all times in setting and applying your rules and be sure to follow through with those rules that are broken, even slightly. It is imperative that as a parent you make it clear there is no tolerance for drug or alcohol abuse of any kind. A big mistake some parents make is overlooking or sweeping the small transgression under the rug with minimal or no punishment attached to the transgression at all. This sends the wrong message and encourages further slightly larger transgressions in the near future. Do not allow the cycle to take root in your family.

No. 6: Become educated and informed about current drug and alcohol culture. You want to sound current and knowledgeable when you discuss drug and alcohol abuse topics with your teenagers. A teenager will tune out an uninformed parent quickly, so be sure you have much more than a cursory grasp of the topic.

No. 7: Encourage your teenager to participate in many worthwhile activities, such as sports, music and even after-school programs at your local YMCA, for example. Ask your teenagers what extracurricular activities and events may be available at their school and seek to find out which ones they may find to be interesting. Keeping a teenager busy with worthwhile activities is important because boredom and unapplied free time is one of the main reasons teenagers begin to get involved with drugs or alcohol.

No. 8: Always make it a point to know what’s going on in each of your teenager’s lives. This means at school, at home and especially with their close friends. It’s very important to know who your teenagers are socializing with since the No. 1 cause of drug and alcohol abuse is the onset of peer pressure when no adults are present.

No. 9: Constantly remind your teenagers about your family’s rules and your personal expectations. Reinforcement and repetition will make an imprint on your teenager’s minds and cause them to realize that you’re quite serious about this topic. Your goal should be to bring this topic up often enough so that there’s no doubt for anyone within the household to fully know and understand the expectations regarding this subject matter.

No. 10: Finally, realize and understand that you are your teen’s most important role model. Refrain from engaging in behavior that breaks the rules you have given them. This means do not drink alcohol to excess in front of them, and in fact, limit your intake dramatically if not entirely in their presence. Teenagers are very quick to pick up a hypocritical scent, so do your utmost not to leave one.

In a time when parents are more worried than ever before about the dangers of drugs, especially fentanyl, it is important to embrace and engage in the challenge that being a parent of a teenager is here in the 21st century. Realize that this is a tireless, endless job, but one that needs to be done, and done well.

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