By Teresa Mercer, Courier & Press, Feb. 2, 2016 –
Another new year has begun. If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian of a child, a new year can bring challenges, struggles and fear of the unknown.
There will also be good times, however. Children of any age can bring many happy and proud moments. Many will reach milestones such as completing kindergarten, finishing junior high and graduating from high school. Attending dances or proms, getting a driver’s license, entering the workforce and going off to college will be other new experiences for many.
There are many things for a parent to worry about. You may wonder how your child will perform in school, whether they will struggle socially, if they will experiment with drugs or alcohol or if they will experience issues such as depression, anxiety, etc.
Today’s world has changed. Social media, the Internet, movies, games and music create opportunities and the need for immediate gratification among our youth. They are exposed to and familiar with drugs and alcohol like never before.
As a school social worker, many times I have listened to parents say, “I raised and taught my child well. I only hope they take these things with them.”
All parents want the best for their children. They try to provide love, guidance, nurturing, morals, beliefs and values. But still, this year many young people will make the decision to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and there will be some who are on the road to addiction.
Addiction within a family is a challenge, especially for the parent. Many times they will blame themselves. The “what if’s,” “should haves” and “could haves” can really take a toll, but no parent wants to give up on their child.
Leah Davis, M.Ed., outlines some ways to help prevent your child from becoming involved in drugs and alcohol:
1. Don’t give in to their demands. Just because they want something doesn’t mean you should get it every time. Don’t give in to their tantrums.
2. Don’t always rescue them from the consequences of their negative behavior. Don’t allow them to make excuses or blame others for their poor decisions or choices.
3. Don’t model poor principles such as lying and cheating.
4. Show affection to your child. Kids of all ages need hugs and time together. Don’t you? They also need to know it is ok to express their feelings. Let them build self-esteem by experiencing interaction with others through sports, clubs, etc.
5. Don’t focus on the negatives or weaknesses of their personality or habits. Praise them as much as you can. Take an interest in their ideas and accomplishments.
6. Rather than passing judgment, show them forgiveness, understanding, patience and love when they make poor choices or decisions. Let them know you make mistakes too. Turn a mistake into a learning opportunity.
7. Don’t demand perfection, but don’t be afraid to set rules and expectations. Let them know their ideas and questions are respected by giving them the opportunity to talk while you listen. Acknowledge their need for independence, but let them know you have to set rules.
8. Don’t be unpredictable. Have consistent routines in the home such as eating dinner together. Be consistent with your reactions to behaviors. If it’s not OK today, it’s not OK tomorrow.
9. Don’t be uninformed about drug and alcohol use. Discuss your attitudes and beliefs.
10. Don’t ignore your own value as a human being. It’s important for you to model good behaviors and healthy ways to cope and communicate. Avoid resentments and negativity that can lead to self-destructive behavior.
Remember, it’s never too late to intervene with someone struggling with an addiction. Seek professional help or reach out to your child’s Youth First school social worker. But it’s equally important to be proactive with behaviors, ideas and actions that can start at home.