You are an important role model. You are your child's most enduring example. This is true in the case of substance use and misuse. By acting responsibly in your behavior related to medications, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, you are teaching your child an important lesson, without words. There are no guarantees. Even if you do all you can——and you are not perfect——a child may still move beyond simple experimentation and misuse substances. Often in such cases the first response is one of guilt and self-blame. Remember: Your children are individuals and ultimately will make their own decisions.
Parents can influence their children, but cannot control them. The first step in helping a child is to help him or her accept responsibility for his or her own actions. So have some patience with yourself, and do not become paralyzed with guilt. Before you work with your child on this issue, there’s one thing you need to know: Kids don’t usually get drugs from strangers. They get drugs from their friends. And that’s the toughest issue of all - teaching your kids that it’s okay to say no to their friends--the people they look to for validation, recognition and fun. Strongly encourage your child to avoid friendships with kids who use drugs.
A great way to help kids prepare for drug-related situations is by acting out—also known as role playing—scenarios with them. It’s important to practice these scenarios with your kids before these situations really happen. Remember, teens rarely verbally pressure or chastise each other into drinking or doing drugs. Rather, the offer is usually casual. “Peer pressure” is more internal than you probably think. For example, your child sees other teens that she wants to be friends with enjoying a drink or a drug and she feels like she wants to be part of it too.
Your son goes to a party at his friend’s house and someone has a brought a bottle of vodka or some beer. Some of the older high school guys are drinking and ask him, “You want some?” Take the role of the older teens or of your son’s friends who casually offer beer or vodka to your son. Help your child develop firm but friendly responses. Reassure him that his friends will respect his decision not to get involved. Remind him that people are pretty focused on themselves, which leaves much less brain space for them to be concerned with what others do.
Your daughter is at her friend’s house with a few close pals and one of them pulls out a joint. Take the role of her friend offering it to the group. Again, help her develop firm but friendly responses and reassure her that good friends will respect her decision not to try it. Your kids will need to be prepared for protests from their peers. Suggest that they meet them with a “broken record” technique—just keep repeating the reason they don’t want to drink, smoke, or do drugs. Then they can try to change the subject or, if all else fails, they should say they have to go home or ask their friend to leave the house.
It may seem premature to talk about drugs with preschoolers, but the attitudes and habits that they form at this age have an important bearing on the decisions they will make when they're older. At this early age, they are eager to know and memorize rules, and they want your opinion on what's "bad" and what's "good." Although they are old enough to understand that smoking is bad for them, they're not ready to take in complex facts about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Nevertheless, this is a good time to practice the decision-making and problem-solving skills that they will need to say "no" later on.
Discuss why children need healthy food. Have your child name several favorite good foods and explain how these foods contribute to health and strength. Set aside regular times when you can give your son or daughter your full attention. Get on the floor and play with him; learn about her likes and dislikes; let him know that you love him; say that she's too wonderful and unique to do drugs. You'll build strong bonds of trust and affection that will make turning away from drugs easier in the years to come. Provide guidelines like playing fair, sharing toys, and telling the truth so children know what kind of behavior you expect from them.
Encourage your child to follow instructions, and to ask questions if he does not understand the instructions. When your child becomes frustrated at play, use the opportunity to strengthen problem-solving skills. For example, if a tower of blocks keeps collapsing, work together to find possible solutions. Turning a bad situation into a success reinforces a child's self-confidence. Whenever possible, let your child choose what to wear. Even if the clothes don't quite match, you are reinforcing your child's ability to make decisions.
Point out poisonous and harmful substances commonly found in homes, such as bleach, kitchen cleanser, and furniture polish, and read the products' warning labels out loud. Explain to your children that not all "bad" drugs have warnings on them, so they should only eat or smell food or a prescribed medicine that you, a grandparent, or a babysitter give them. Explain that prescription medications are drugs that can help the person for whom they are meant but that can harm anyone else — especially children, who must stay away from them.
[quote="Cherbiec" post=3609]Point out poisonous and harmful substances commonly found in homes, such as bleach, kitchen cleanser, and furniture polish, and read the products' warning labels out loud. Explain to your children that not all "bad" drugs have warnings on them, so they should only eat or smell food or a prescribed medicine that you, a grandparent, or a babysitter give them. Explain that prescription medications are drugs that can help the person for whom they are meant but that can harm anyone else — especially children, who must stay away from them.[/quote]
A child this age usually shows increasing interest in the world outside the family and home. Now is the time to begin to explain what alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are, that some people use them even though they are harmful, and the consequences of using them. Discuss how anything you put in your body that is not food can be extremely harmful. How drugs interfere with the way our bodies work and can make a person very sick or even cause them to die. (Most children of this age have had real-life experiences with a death of a relative or the relative of someone at school.)
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