Parenting is fraught with uncertainty. We want to keep our teens safe, but we can’t be by their side every minute of the day helping them make the right choices. While the bad news is that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 percent of eighth graders, 30 percent of tenth graders and 40 percent of high school seniors admit to using drugs at least once in the past year, the good news is that the majority of eighth graders, tenth graders and seniors don’t use drugs. So how can you make sure your teen resists the temptation to experiment with drugs? Here are five activities that can help.
1. Engage in Family Time
According to a study published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors, parents have a great deal of influence over whether their child engages in drug use. Experts across the board agree that spending plenty of quality time with your child is crucial for developing a healthy relationship built on love and trust. Time spent together provides you with plenty of opportunities to instill values in your child that will likely lead her to make healthier choices in many aspects of her life.
2. Help Your Child Set Goals
Setting goals and working toward them can help keep your teen focused on the future, and it helps her develop a strong sense of purpose. Reaching those goals instills self-confidence and increases self-esteem, and all of these factors will go a long way toward helping your child make healthy decisions concerning drug abuse. PBS.org offers a number of tips for setting goals with children, including helping them choose meaningful goals, making the goals realistic and helping your child explore different types of goals, such as those related to academics, health and finances.
3. Encourage Your Child to Join a Team
Joining a sports team or academic club is a strong deterrent for drug abuse, according to the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. Research shows that being part of a team leads to improved self-esteem, the ability to handle stress more effectively and productively, better academic performance and a healthier relationship with family members. Playing sports also helps to instill respect for one’s body, while academic pursuits instill respect for the mind. Both can lead to better life choices on and off the playing field.
4. Promote Helping Others
Encouraging your child to help others by volunteering is a great way to help her stay drug-free. A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescents found that rural teens who engaged in prosocial behaviors that help other people were less likely to use drugs than their non-volunteering counterparts. Help your child find a volunteer opportunity that aligns with her interests, such as working with animals, helping refugees learn English, assisting the elderly or joining a disaster relief team. Volunteering for a cause close to her heart will help her stay busy, see a bigger picture and increase her self-awareness and self-confidence, all of which are potent deterrents for drug abuse.
5. Converse Early and Often
One of the best things you can do to help your teen stay off drugs is to keep an open dialog about drugs and drug abuse. Make it an ongoing, two-way conversation instead of a lecture, and really listen to your child’s opinions and insights. Talking about drugs early and often is a good way to help ensure she gets the message loud and clear and makes healthy choices when you’re not around. Keep in mind that the more you know about drugs, drug abuse and addiction, the better you can meaningfully educate your child about the pitfalls and dangers of drug abuse. A great place to start is the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s information-packed resource page Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. For help on keeping your teen off of drugs, give us a call at 877-466-0620.