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Preventing Drugs and Alcohol

Communication is the first line of defense for parents when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Because children are drinking and experimenting with drugs at a younger age than ever, discussions about the use of these substances needs to occur at a younger age. Even elementary school children are sometimes experimenting with alcohol. If your child's school deals with this issue, discuss with them how you can also participate in any discussions with your child about alcohol or drugs.

Once your child reaches middle school the pressure to drink and use drugs increases. Peer pressure is much more powerful than parental influence as a child reaches adolescence. Therefore, open and direct communication about these types of issues is essential. In a way, this communication should be designed to arm your child against pressures by their peers. Rather than simply telling your child, "Just Say No!" you need to give them effective and useful methods of dealing with the types of pressure they may experience. Parents who are not sure how to do this can find numerous resources in their community and online that will help them develop a plan of action.

If your child is already using drugs and alcohol, intervention needs to be more dramatic than a conversation or "new rules." Teens who are experimenting will need more supervision and stronger parental controls to keep them from getting deeper into the use of drugs and alcohol. Setting curfews, asking them to check in, checking out parties with the hosting parents before you child attends, and other actions will help you keep tabs on your child's behavior. There should be zero tolerance for some especially risky behaviors. Make sure your teen knows the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. For example, if you find out they have driven the car under the influence, they will lose car privileges for six months. However, if you set this rule, catch them driving under the influence, then buckle to their pressure to give them back the car keys, you will undermine your efforts to keep them safe. The consequences for such potentially deadly behavior should be swift and strict. They must get the message that this behavior could result in far worse consequences (jail, death, loss of license, fines), and therefore, your consequences fit the crime.

If your child appears to be out of control and is clearly using drugs and alcohol to his or her detriment, parents must act quickly to intervene. Grounding your child will not be enough. Parents should seek professional interventions for any teenager who appears to have developed a problem with drugs or alcohol.

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