“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)
Nearly all parents dread “the talk” but few think of talking to their child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse. In fact some parents mistakenly allow their teenager to use these substances under their supervision due to the false assumption that by taking all of the “mystery” out of them they will eliminate the teen’s desire to experiment on their own.
Who really has the most influence?
Adolescence is the most turbulent time in life-both for the child and the parents. Boundaries are pushed and both parent and child struggle with this transitional period. Unfortunately far too many parents have decided it is impossible to influence their teens and have essentially abdicated their responsibilities to their peers, the media and/or the public school system.
Despite the popular perception that peers and the media hold the most influence on teenage choices, numerous studies over the years have shown teenagers see their parents as being the most influential when comes to making decisions about everything from drinking to drugs to sex. This means, parents, it is up to us to prevent our children from heading down the wrong path.
There is no such thing as quality time
Out of the self-indulgence of the 1980’s came the phrase “quality time” which was used to place a value on how one spent time with their child instead of using the amount of time spent to determine if a parent was fulfilling their “parental duties.” Unfortunately, as technology advanced, quality time became an excuse for a parent to show up at their kid’s activities and then spend the whole time on the phone with the office.
The fact is, no matter how the time is spent, there is no substitute for spending time with your child. Relationships are built on spending time with each other-whether in the car, going fishing, or watching television-and it is this relationship which allows a parent to talk to their child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. More importantly, it is the depth of this relationship which will determine if the child listens.
Don’t be afraid of your past
Some parents may feel hypocritical telling their kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol when they were guilty of experimenting with these substances in their teenage years. The opposite, however, is true. If you are open and honest with your teen about your past indiscretions it lends credibility to your warnings to stay away. Instead of your child using the age-old comeback “How do you know if you never tried it” you can counter with your knowledge of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and express the regrets you now have as a result of your usage.
Nearly every family has someone whose life has gone completely off the rails due to drug and/or alcohol abuse. Do not hide this person’s abuse from your teen. Instead use the pain and misery this individual has caused themselves and other family members. While it is terribly sad to see a loved one destroy their lives in this manner, they can be a very powerful object lesson when you talk to your child about drug and alcohol abuse.
As parents we all deal with the fear that something we say or do will irrevocably “damage” our child. Truth be told, it is what we don’t do or what we don’t say that causes the most harm. If you do not talk to your child about drugs and alcohol someone or something else will fill the void and, chances are, the message your child receives will be harmful to their health and, quite possibly, deadly.
Most of us can remember Smokey the Bear and his catchphrase: “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Well, parents, it is up to you to prevent your child from becoming mired in the pit that is drug and alcohol abuse. Talk to your child early and often. Be open and honest. To paraphrase Mr. Bear: “Only you can prevent your child from abusing drugs and alcohol.”
Runnymede School is a Christian year-round boarding school for boys having behavioral, academic and emotional problems located on 31 acres in rural Missouri. Runnymede’s goal is to provide early intervention and prevention to help boys reach their full potential and to become well-rounded Christian young men in a unique therapeutic environment where every experience is educational and therapeutic in a fun and purposeful environment. We are dedicated to providing outstanding services to students and their families in the context of a safe, supportive environment. Find out more about our school and our programs at https://www.runnymedeschool.com.