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August 22, 2014
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Guest column: Help your child avoid illegal drugs, alcohol

Soon, school bells will be ringing. As parents, we can help our children learn successfully by setting aside time for homework and providing time for the family to get together.

We should also consider ways to support our children when they are exposed to peer pressure and temptations. Some of those stresses increase when they return to school.

Parents may worry about their children’s safety. They worry with good reason:

Alcohol is the leading drug problem of today’s youth. It kills more young people than cocaine, heroin, and every other illegal drug combined, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It has been estimated that over 3 million teenagers are out-and-out alcoholics. Several million more have a serious drinking problem that they cannot manage on their own. The sooner they begin drinking, the more likely they are to have a dependence on alcohol.

Half of high school students have tried marijuana by the time they graduate, according to Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Methamphetamines and steroids are tempting to youth who want to escape stress, be part of the crowd or improve their sports performance.

It’s reassuring to know that parents can combat these scary facts. How? By avoiding denial or panic.

Support your child. It’s likely that your child will go to parties and that one or two could get out of hand. Provide an agreed-upon code word that, if used in a call or text from them to you, will result in a message from you about a “family emergency” that requires them to come home immediately. Certainly, you’ll want to learn more about your child’s lapse in judgment; however, the immediate goal is to be a reliable resource.

Consequences are part of consistency; just be sure they are reasonable and help your child learn.

Be tough but fair. Make your expectations clear and do not accept excuses. At the same time, control your emotions so you don’t react in a way that encourages your child to lie. For example, lecturing and browbeating won’t make them want to talk to you. Ask your children open-ended questions that require more than “yes” or “no” answers. Try to be an active listener.

Tell them the truth about drugs and alcohol — that substances can create an altered world and, at first, it can seem fun and feel good.

Be sure to add that the many problems and potential consequences of drinking and using are not worth the temporary pleasure. Children tend not to believe they could harm themselves by using steroids or that they might become addicted to a substance. Cut through the disbelief by saying that you are going to watch out for their best interests.

Explain that you will be alert for signs and symptoms of use and abuse. You may be accused of not trusting your child; your parental job, though, is to verify in addition to trusting.

Even if you have experimented with drugs, your role is to tell your children that you made a mistake and you want better for them.

Ultimately, the goal is to help your children learn to cope with life’s stresses without artificial assistance.

As children get older, they still need their parents to be involved in their lives. A teenager may protest, but parental consistency is part of what helps the child move safely and smartly through those years.

Working to counter peer pressure and temptations lets the child concentrate on school work and activities. It’s a gift parents can give their children — and themselves.

Randy Anderson is the manager of Serenity Lane’s Roseburg facility. Serenity Lane is a private, not-for-profit treatment center for alcohol and other drug dependences. More resources and tips are at www.serenitylane.org/blog.

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The News-Review Updated Aug 22, 2014 12:14PM Published Aug 22, 2014 12:14PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.