Substance Abuse, Your Children, & You

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In today’s world, drugs will be an issue for your children in one form or another. In almost every community in America, youngsters can obtain alcohol, cigarettes, and other types of drugs if they really want to. In fact, most teens try some form of mood altering substance at least once. 

What Parents Can Do 
With the healthy support of parents and the right kind of information, most children do not become habitual substance abusers in later life. Here are ways to help your children avoid letting the use of substances become a problem in their lives. 

Start Early & Talk About the Risks 
Start talking about the risks associated with substance abuse as soon as your children are old enough to understand. You don't have to be an expert, just be open, realistic, and available to talk about the issues. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so and look for information together. Don’t exaggerate the dangers if they are not true. Kids are more aware today than ever before, so if you make exaggerated claims or try to be an expert when you aren’t, you'll lose your credibility with your children. 

Check out the Resources 
The solid research findings related to substance abuse speak for themselves. These findings on the factual risks are readily available through a variety of publications and are sufficient to get the important messages across to your children. Use the public library, television reports, newspaper articles, the internet, or your Employee Assistance Program as resources. Be sure to ask the opinion of your children as well as letting them know what you think. 

Examine Your Own Patterns 
If you drink alcohol, smoke or use other drugs, look closely at the messages you may be sending to your children. Coming home and saying, “Boy, do I need a drink,” smoking cigarettes, or using some other form of mood altering substance gives your children a model for using alcohol or other drugs to solve problems. 

Know the Signs of Children or Teenagers at Risk 
Signs of possible drug abuse include diminishing school performance and attendance, exaggerated mood swings, changes in friends, dress or hygiene, and more opposition than usual to parental or other authority figures. Seek professional help if you see these patterns emerging.