8 Ways to Keep Your Children From Abusing Drugs
Are you a parent of an adolescent? Parenting teens and pre-teens can be challenging. You’re responsible for a child that is discovering their independence and trying to turn into their own person.
Children and teenagers explore. They try out new hobbies, new friend groups, new skills, and new experiences. Sometimes these experiences include abusing drugs.
As a parent, you can’t prevent every bad thing from harming your child. You can do your part in drug and alcohol abuse prevention, however. We want to help you.
Keep reading to learn all teen drug use and steps that you can take to protect your child.
Why Teens Try Drugs
First, let’s talk about why teenagers may be more susceptible to drug use and even addiction. The adolescent brain isn’t finished developing. The pleasure center of the brain however, develops more quickly.
This means that teens are looking for dopamine hits even if they don’t know it. This is even more true for teens with ADHD.
While the pleasure center of the brain is ready to go, the part of the brain that regulates risk-taking behavior lags behind. Teenagers don’t have the self-preservation to resist the temptation of drugs.
Teens are also subject to peer pressure. Adults have a stronger sense of self, making them better at making decisions that reflect their values.
How Drugs Impact The Adolescent Brain
As we mentioned, the human brain isn’t finished developing during the teenage years. It stands to reason that drugs will impact that development.
The dopamine hit from drugs is intense. Whether the drug is nicotine or a heavy opiate, the result is the same. The brain gets overwhelmed by this dopamine hit and starts getting more resistant against other things that result in smaller amounts of dopamine (such as hobbies or time with friends).
The adult brain is able to bounce back from this dopamine hit more quickly. A developing brain doesn’t have this ability.
Early drug use may also impact a teen’s ability to succeed in school. It may even have a negative impact on long-term memory storage.
So how can you prevent these things?
Encourage Better (and Longer) Sleep
Any parent of teenagers knows that bedtime gets harder and harder as the child grows older. You no longer have a kid that readily accepts naps and an early trip to bed.
Teenagers crave independence, and part of that independence includes staying up past midnight.
It’s your responsibility, however, to try to change that. Lead by example by going to bed (or at least pretending to) at a reasonable hour during the school week.
Discourage the use of electronics before bed. It might be counterproductive to remove the electronics (for older teens) because they will rebel. Be gentle, but firm.
If your child experiences insomnia or has general trouble sleeping, try changing some things about their experience. Make sure that they don’t have anything too sweet or caffeinated within a few hours of their bedtime. If they study for school, encourage them to stop at least an hour before bed so they aren’t overstimulated.
Encourage Physical Exercise
Did you know that physical activity and sports can discourage drug use in teens?
Exercise is good for the brain and body alike. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These are “feel good” chemicals that react with the pleasure center of the brain.
People who exercise often feel better. This isn’t to say that exercise is a cure for mental health conditions that lend themselves to addiction, but it does provide a buffer.
Students who involve themselves in sports often have less interest in drugs because they won’t be able to compete if they use them. Exercise is also a fantastic outlet for getting rid of stress and anger.
Have Family Bonding Time
Children who grow up in strong families are less susceptible to future drug abuse and addiction.
Children need support networks. A healthy child has to understand that they can fail and still have a safety net to catch them. Children who don’t have that are more likely to turn to drugs instead.
It’s important to make time to bond with your child. It’s difficult in our fast-paced world, but it will make a huge difference.
Start with weekends. Try planning a single family activity each weekend to encourage bonding. It can be as simple as a movie night.
It’s helpful to have family dinners if it’s possible to do so. Many families get so caught up with their lives that they start bringing dinner with them to continue working, studying, or having fun. Make an effort to sit together as a family while you’re eating.
Some parents end up being too strict on their children in a misguided effort to discourage drug use. In reality, overly strict parenting can result in children who suffer from greater mental health issues. These mental health issues put children at a greater risk for drug abuse.
Instead of hovering over your child and discouraging socialization, allow it. Make sure that you have regular check-ins with your child, and you know where they’re going to be, but let them have some freedom.
When a child knows that you’re supportive of their friendships and social life, they’re less likely to lie about where they’re going and otherwise act out.
Help Them Find Healthy Hobbies
Teens who are still discovering themselves thrive when they find the right fun hobbies. If your teen doesn’t seem to have a specific hobby or passion, help them find one so they don’t get distracted by drugs.
Do you have a creative child? Consider enrolling them in an art class and getting them some art supplies so they can chase that passion. Art is also a great outlet for emotions.
Active children benefit from enrollment in sports teams. Some children who aren’t active but love the outdoors may love gardening. There is a healthy hobby for every child. You just have to find it.
Be a Supportive Parent
Parents are busy, and we understand that. It’s easy to get stressed out with day-to-day life and get frustrated when a child asks for something.
It’s your job to support your child, even if it’s inconvenient for you.
As we mentioned before, children need safety nets. You are the first line of defense for your child, so you are that safety net. Your child needs to know that.
Not only do you have to support their interests, but you also have to support their educational goals, their personal goals, and their wishes (within reason).
When you’re supportive, your child will trust you more. They’ll know that they can call you if they’re in a situation that they want to remove themselves from (such as a party with drug use).
Strong parental support results in children who don’t feel the need to turn to drugs.
Talk to Them
Speaking of supporting your child, it’s important that you have real conversations with them about difficult topics.
Children and teenagers are still growing. They don’t have all of the answers, and may not yet be able to vocalize their thoughts and feelings without prompting. They may feel like their worries are unique and unacceptable.
Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your child. Let them know that it’s safe for them to come to you with problems. Try not to get visibly upset about something if your child is sharing it with you.
You also need to talk to your child about their mental health. Too many parents think that mental health is an adult issue. In reality, many teens have undiagnosed mental health struggles that they don’t know how to handle.
By encouraging your child to open up to you about these things, you can also help them heal. Children with good mental health are less likely to turn to drugs.
You can’t rely on programs like DARE to educate your child about drugs and addiction. You need to be honest and open with your child while you educate them.
If your family has a history of drug abuse, explain this to your child. Talk about the health effects of drug use and how it can impact your teenager’s future. Explain real-world consequences without exaggerating (as teens can see through this tactic).
Stop Your Child from Abusing Drugs
All good parents want their children to grow up strong and healthy. Stopping them from abusing drugs is an important part of that.
Remember that it’s important to maintain your child’s trust. Approach them gently and be encouraging, not accusatory. Your bond with your child is one of the most important determining factors when it comes to future drug abuse.
Do you have a child who is already abusing drugs? At Dream Recovery, we want to help. Contact us to talk to an admissions specialist today.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Adolescent Brain—What Can Be Learned From Animal Models. (2021). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/213-221.htm
Physical Activity May Prevent Substance Abuse. (2011, March 1). NIDA Archives. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2011/03/physical-activity-may-prevent-substance-abuse
Li, M. P. S. (2021, August 30). Strict Parents – What’s Wrong With Them. Parenting For Brain. https://www.parentingforbrain.com/strict-parents/
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Allow Adequate Socialization Time