Published December 3, 2014
Most parents do their best to raise their children to have happy, healthy and productive lives.
If children develop substance abuse problems, it can hamper their development and keep them from living up to their full potential.
Recent national surveys indicate that illegal drug use among teenagers has increased in the past few years, mainly because of a rise in marijuana use. Approximately 36 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past year. This increase may be due in part to a growing perception that marijuana is a “safe” drug, because of trends in legalizing marijuana for medical and even recreational use.
Parents are often concerned about whether their children will start or are already using drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and others, including the abuse of prescription drugs. Research has shown the important role parents play in preventing their children from starting to use drugs.
Although some parents may believe they have little or no influence on their children’s habits, a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows otherwise, finding “teens who believe their parents would strongly disapprove of their substance use were less likely to use substances than others.” Another study found that when students trusted and felt comfortable communicating with their parents, and parents were actively involved in their children’s lives, children were less likely to use alcohol or marijuana.
As a parent, what can you do to lower the risk for alcohol and drug abuse in your child?
Build a warm and trusting relationship with your child. Research at RIA highlights the importance of parent-child relationship quality in preventing the risk for drug use. This can begin at birth. What you do may need to change as they grow, but what remains constant is the importance of being warm and caring toward your child. For example:
Provide clear and high standards for your child. As the American Academy of Pediatrics reminds, the word “discipline” comes from the Latin word for “teach” or “instruct.” When you can lovingly present clear expectations to your children, they are better able to learn self-discipline and refrain from harmful behaviors.
Practice positive parenting with teenagers. The Family Checkup program developed at the University of Oregon highlights parenting skills important for preventing drug use in adolescents and has some online videos about parent-adolescent communication that may be helpful. Tips include:
Stay vigilant and watch for signs of possible substance use. Even in the best parenting situations, children can still fall prey to drug and alcohol use. Be aware if:
If you suspect your child is using drugs, there are many actions you can take to help him or her:
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The University of Michigan conducts a yearly survey, “Monitoring the Future,” that measures drug, alcohol and tobacco use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade. Here are a few facts from the 2013 survey: