The Best Prevention is Communication With Your Kids
As your kids enter adolescence, it is time to enhance your communication skills to sustain and improve the relationship with them and increase the chances of keeping your children drug-free.
Who, what, when, where - As your children start their drive toward increasing independence, it is important to know what your child is up to when away from home. Have your child check in with you regularly and provide them with the means to do that, whether it is with a cell phone or other means. Know the activities that your child is involved in and keep close tabs on their attendance and participation. Keep an activity calendar and contact numbers handy. Know whom they will be with at all times.
Network with other parents – Introduce yourself to other parents and get their phone numbers, home and e-mail addresses. Get to know them. Use your contacts to verify information, drivers or get-togethers involving your child.
Show up early - Show up a little early to pick up your child so you can observe their behavior and see who they are with.
Check to see that your kids are where they are supposed to be – Occasionally check to see that your child is where they told you they were.
Know The Signs And Symptoms
There are a number of signs of drug use, although no single sign or combination of signs is a clear indicator. Some indicators of a potential problem include:
- Drop in school attendance or academic performance
- Isolation, depression, fatigue
- Lack of interest in personal appearance
- Hostility and lack of cooperativeness
- Physical changes (persistent runny nose, red eyes, coughing, wheezing, bruises, needle marks)
- Increase in borrowing money
- Unaccounted-for cash, especially in small denominations
- Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family, friends or interests
- Change in friends
- Loss of interest in hobbies or sports that used to be important
- Change in eating/sleeping habits
- Smell of alcohol on the breath or frequent use of breath mints
- Watered-down alcohol in liquor bottles
- Sudden use of strong perfume or cologne
- Evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia (rolling papers, eye drops, butane lighters, pipes)
- Use of incense or room deodorant
- Heightened secrecy about actions or possessions
- Evidence of inhaling products (hairspray, nail polish, white-out) or chemicals used to get high (gasoline, smell of chemicals on the person, more frequent need to purchase household products)
First, You Listen
Keeping the lines of communication open is essential to creating an atmosphere of trust between you and your kids. Taking time to spend individually with each child gives him or her an opportunity to confide or share feelings with you that you might not get when in a family group. When a child asks to talk to you, try to find the time to do so immediately rather than postponing it or providing an excuse. Show your attention – kids know when you’re pretending to listen. Here are a few listening tips:
- Create together time – take a walk, ask your child to “teach” you something, go get ice cream or go fishing, for example
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation
- Try to understand your child’s point of view
- Restate their issue and ask for clarification if needed
- Ask them to explain slang