Parents play a specific role in prevention education. The earlier a child starts experimenting with substances, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. The Center on Addiction found in 2018 that children who began using substances like tobacco, alcohol or prescription medications before the age of 15 were seven-times more likely to experience substance abuse problems in their adult life. As a parent, you are the first line of defense against addiction. Here's how you can support your children through their impressionable years.
One of the most important measures to preventing substance abuse is learning more about the risk factors and early signs of abusive behavior. Important risk factors for substance abuse include family history of abuse, favorable parental attitudes toward substances, poor parental vigilance and mental health issues.
While these risk factors are an important aspect of preventing substance abuse, the early signs are even more important. By quickly identifying your child's experimentation, you can take early and decisive steps to provide them with the parenting and resources they need to avoid addiction. Early warning signs include:
By understanding the implicit risk factors and early warning signs of substance abuse, you can begin to take the first steps toward helping your child.
One of the typical risk factors associated with childhood substance abuse is parental views and expectations toward certain substances. By setting clear lines and not subconsciously encouraging your children toward alcohol and drugs, you can set the right expectations. Have clear, direct discussions with your children about alcohol and drugs. These discussions don't have to be once in a while, they can happen frequently. By constantly reaffirming your beliefs and attitudes toward substances, you can equip your children with the necessary skills to make proper judgements.
This preventative step works in tandem with setting clear expectations regarding drug and alcohol use. By taking an active role in your child's life, you're providing support and help as your child grows up. Your child will also be more encouraged to talk to you about different problems and experiences they're facing. By providing the right level of attention to your child, you can ensure they're protected from substance abuse.
By having frequent discussions with your children, you are taking the most important step toward ensuring they avoid addiction. Conversations don't have to be built up to a big moment or happen once a year. They can occur frequently and help you develop your relationship with your children.
A major part of having open discussions about sensitive topics with your children is practicing active listening. When you immediately judge or scorn a child for a mistake, improper view or judgement, you can risk alienating them. Once they reach a certain age, it's important to treat them with a level of autonomy. While children often lack proper judgement, being an active listener and supporter can allow you to shepherd them away from negative experiences that they may otherwise be unable to avoid. Children aren't equipped with the same judgmental faculties as adults, and therefore need guidance. By being too firm and not practicing active listening, you can risk alienating your child and driving them toward the negative experiences you were initially trying to protect them from.
Being a parent is difficult, but with the right guidance you can set your children up for a successful, fulfilling life. Read Wellspring's Blog for more preventative parenting tips on how to ensure your child is equipped to handle the challenges of growing up.