10 Suggestions for Parents—A Guide to Drug Prevention
If you could look into the faces of young drug addicts and listen to their stories of despair as I have, you would do everything in your power to help protect your children so that they do not ever have to go through this kind of pain. Preventing the abuse of alcohol and drugs must become a priority. The bottom line about drug abuse is that it always causes terrible agony and overwhelming sorrow to individuals and families.
Our family once attended a well-organized block party with great food and enjoyable activities for the children. It was a lot of fun until many of the adults started drinking. The happy atmosphere soon disintegrated because of the embarrassing actions of several adults who got drunk. I felt sad that the children in our neighborhood had to witness this type of immature behavior. The party would have been a complete success if it had been alcohol-free. What a great message the adults could have sent to the neighborhood children—we can all have fun without drinking! I wish I would have suggested that this be an alcohol-free party during the planning stages, but I didn’t.
Drug abuse can lead to death. People who are using drugs and alcohol can kill themselves or innocent victims. Injuring or killing people while driving under the influence are horrendous crimes. This awful insanity plunges the lives of family members and friends of the victims into a bottomless chasm of grief and sorrow. Our family was completely devastated, as many other families have been, with the horrible tragedy of having a loved one killed by a drunk driver. Through our family’s ongoing grief, I lost all fear of speaking out against drugs and alcohol. Once you’ve had your heart totally broken and your soul completely crushed by such an excruciating experience, nothing else really matters. You have to get involved. You have to do something. When my niece and her husband and their young son were severely injured and their baby killed by a drunk driver, my sister and brother-in-law became actively involved in MADD. They have helped persuade their legislature to pass more strict drunk driving laws.
Parents can help protect their children and fight the destructive influence of drug abuse by being proactive within their families. The following ten suggestions can help you be an effective leader in your home as you teach your children to stay true to your family values.
1. Get Actively Involved in Drug Prevention
As children see their parents actively involved in the community preventing drug abuse, they may be motivated to live a drug-free life. Combining your talents with those of other concerned parents can make a real difference.
2. Openly Discuss Addiction Issues
Today’s young people live in a world filled with drugs that are available to them everywhere. It is important to share your honest feelings of concern about addiction. Let your children know clearly that the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs is not acceptable in your family. As you openly discuss drug and alcohol abuse with your children, you will help them be prepared to deal with the stress of negative peer pressure that will probably occur in the future. Read books together that explain drugs’ harmful effects, and take time to role play so your children can practice what they might say in different situations. Frequently express your heartfelt love to your child. Besides needing to know all the facts about drugs and alcohol and the consequences of addiction, children also need to know how much you care about them.
3. Focus on High Self-esteem
While there are no guarantees that what you do as parents will keep your children from making poor choices as they grow up, you want to do everything you can to help them succeed. It is important to find and use all the resources that are available to you through school, church, community organizations, and the Internet. As you educate yourself and effectively teach your children, you can help them avoid the pitfalls that many adolescents stumble into today. Try to help your children discover and maintain high self-esteem. When children feel good about themselves, they are less likely to get involved in drugs and other illegal activities.
4. Be Cheerful and Committed
As conscientious parents, you will continually feel the heavy weight of responsibility in teaching and guiding your children. But always remember to be of good cheer (Matthew 14:27). As you radiate real happiness and love to your children, they will be drawn to you—and listen to you—over time. If your family is not as close as you would like, you can make little changes here and there until the atmosphere in your home improves, and you have the relationship you desire. Although you will probably make many mistakes, you need to keep trying. Parenting is not a part-time job. It is a lifetime commitment.
5. Improve Communication
Children are constantly being bombarded by negative influences that try to pull them away from the values being taught in the home. It is your privilege and responsibility to open up lines of communication with your children. Be available to them when they want to talk to you, and help them feel comfortable expressing themselves. You must teach your children in a positive way so they’ll not only understand the consequences of their choices, but also their intrinsic value as individuals. As communication within the family improves, your children will have a greater desire to always avoid alcohol and drugs.
6. Have Fun with Family and Friends
Take time to have fun as a family, and look for opportunities to relax, talk, and just enjoy each other’s company. You will get to know your children on a different level with each activity you participate in together. Encourage your children to make good friends, and create a warm atmosphere of hospitality in your home. If your children’s friends come by, invite them to stay and visit or have something to eat with your family. Let your children see your example of being friendly to other people so they will learn these emotionally healthy social skills. Good friends provide a strong network for children that help them stay away from drugs and other negative influences.
7. Make Your Home a “Safe Haven”
Make your home a safe haven where your children can feel comfortable, and secure. Don’t let the hectic pressures of life spill over and cause stress in your family on a continual basis. Everyone needs some down time, so don’t over-schedule every hour of the day. Put on some quiet music once in a while, and try to create a feeling of peace that everyone in the family can enjoy.
8. Be a Role Model for Addiction-free Living
Children need positive role models, exemplary teachers, and other good influential people who will help them gain a desire to stay away from drugs. They need to see people who are leading happy, productive, drug-free lives. Parents are the first role models children will follow, so be aware of the example you are setting each day. You need to be a good role model not only for your children’s generation, but for your generation—and in many cases your parents’ generation—as well. Our world is consumed with every kind of addiction imaginable, and this is causing acute despair and the crumbling destruction of the family. By your example, you can show others how to enjoy the freedom that an addiction-free life promises.
9. Encourage Alcohol-free Activities
When you have the opportunity to help plan any type of activity or party that children are going to attend, always speak up and suggest that it be alcohol-free. Explain that children need to socialize with adults who can show them how to have fun without drinking—then the children will have the social skills they need to have fun with their peers without drinking. Alcohol severely damages the developing brains of children, and this important period of growth must be protected. Adults need to understand the great influence their behavior is having on the children around them and act responsibly.
10. Support Legislation against Drunk Driving
Find out what the laws for driving under the influence are in your state, and do what you can to make them tougher. Strict laws and severe penalties for every DUI will provide a wake-up call to people who need help in learning to be responsible for their self-centered, potentially destructive behavior. Many people do not take this matter seriously and even joke about getting caught, but driving under the influence is not a laughing matter. While always emphasizing the importance of never using drugs or alcohol, talk to your children about the grave dangers of driving under the influence. Help them to understand that they should never drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol nor ride with anyone who is under the influence.
You Can Make a Difference
I know that by uniting your efforts with those of other families you can make a difference in preventing addiction and the tidal wave of sorrow that always follows it. While it may not be easy, it is possible to make changes that will radiate to others in your community and to the whole world. The courageous work you do will not only affect your own family in a positive way but will also bless the lives of countless generations to come.
I have developed a self-help drug prevention program called, Bold & Fearless Prevention Program that you might enjoy using.