What are You Doing to Keep Your Kids off Drugs?
Before school gets out is the time to sit down with your kids and plan summer activities that keep them engaged, keep them motivated, keep them working hard and learning, and most importantly keep them off drugs.
What are you NOT doing to keep your kids off drugs?
You should NOT, in my medical opinion allow teenagers to have a free and open summer schedule.
I am not telling you all of this to frighten you, but to serve as a very important wake-up call as summer is right around the corner and “idle minds, idle hands, and idle teenagers are the devils playground.”
Or so the saying should really go…
In my medical opinion children that are in middle school and high school should not be left with an open schedule for summertime. I know many of you feel like your children have the “rest of their lives to work, so let’s just not make them have to grow up too quickly” but that is simply NOT realistic these days. The innocent summer of fun that you once had twenty years ago is exactly what is going to end your kid up on drugs.
The more activities you involve your kids in the more likely you are to know if they are indeed using drugs.
Why is that?
Because the more adults interacting with your child…the more teachers, coaches, bosses, and other parents keeping an eye on your kid when you aren’t around, the more likely you are to discover if your kid is using drugs. Although there are always exceptions to the rules, a truly busy, productive kid doesn’t have time to use drugs.
Every parent worries about the possibility of their child falling in to the wrong crowd, and eventually becoming addicted to drugs.
“An ounce of prevention” is truly worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping your kids off drugs.
So, the million dollar question is “What are you doing to keep your kids off drugs?”
For parents of adolescents and teenagers simply talking about drugs is no longer good enough.
Although talk is important, life today in 2008 is not what it was fifty years ago or even fifteen years ago. Kids have so many added pressures and they are as a result engaging in the use of alcohol and drugs, as well as having sex at much earlier ages.
Many children in middle school are having sex, and most of them have already experimented with alcohol and drugs. By the time your child graduates from high school they are most likely already having sex, drinking and experimenting with drugs.
How do I know this?
Current statistics about teenage drug use support my clinical observations.
Top Tips for Keeping your Kids Off Drugs:
- Keep your kids busy! Busy kids don’t have time for drugs. Part time jobs, after school activities, hobbies, sports, clubs, and volunteer work not only keep your kid busy but are important additions to any college applications to ensure your kid gets in to the best college possible.
- Never act judgmental. Judgment is the parenting “kiss of death”. The goal is to remain open and honest so that you can gain information. If your kid is using drugs and alcohol, you should be the first to hear all about it. By creating continual open dialogues and not sounding judgmental of other people or children you will more likely create an open environment for them to confide in.
- Talk to your kid about drugs. Let them know in advance that privileges such as cars, allowances, clothes, and such all are contingent on the fact that they are not involved with drugs or alcohol, or they more likely already are using drugs.
- Watch your kid’s grades. If grades in high school or middle school suddenly fall, it is most likely because of drugs and alcohol.
- Set reasonable curfews based on the activity your kid is engaging in. Contrary to popular belief teenagers do not need to be out all night. If your high school aged kid wants to stay out past midnight, they are up to no good. Or “no good” is soon to happen to them!
- Secretly examine your kid. Always have your kids wake you up when they get home. Hug them and kiss them on the cheek so you can give them a thorough smell down. Be sure to sincerely and diligently ask them about the events of their evening as part of your night-time routine. Watch for slurring of words, swaying back and forth, dilated or constricted pupils, red eyes, red flushed faces, and the smell of alcohol or drugs on them. If your kid smells like cigarette smoke they are almost always hanging out with other kids using drugs and alcohol.
- Use a flashlight! If you shine a flashlight in your kid’s eyes and the pupils remain large and do not shrink down in size from the bright light, they are on drugs!
- Check for “nystagamus” a horizontal fluttering of the eyeballs, the same way that cops and doctors do, to see if your kid is drunk or on drugs. Ask your kid to follow your finger with just their eyes. Watch their eyes and as you move your finger away from midline and out to the extreme left or right. Hold your finger there. If their eyes “beat” rhythmically in the direction of your finger, they most likely have been drinking. Regardless this kind of test will instill great fear in to your kid! They will think twice before drinking or using drugs around you.
- Don’t believe what you want to hear. Denial can be life threatening when it comes to teens and drugs!
- Constantly work on improving your child’s self esteem and communication skills.
- Keep an eye out for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression that often lead to “self medication” with drugs and alcohol.
- Plan fun family activities for one night of every weekend, or every other weekend. Allow your kids to invite friends. If your kids don’t want to participate, it is most likely because they are on drugs.
- Ask some family friends slightly older than your children to engage your kids in conversations about drugs and alcohol. If your kid is using drugs they will more likely talk about it to someone that is “cool” than their own parents. Find them these positive role models, invite them to family dinners and functions often.
Signs Your Child is on Drugs:
- If you suspect your child is using drugs, then they most likely are.
- If your child is friends with someone using drugs, alcohol, or having sex, they are soon to follow.
- If your teenagar plays with children’s toys, collects lot’s of shiny and sparkly gadgets or toys, attends laser shows frequently, seems developmentally behind other kids their age, is suddenly making worse grades, is spacey, has delayed or rapid speech, is using alcohol, smells like cigarette smoke, stays out often past their curfew…they are almost ALWAYS on drugs. Honestly, I would be surprised if they weren’t.
- If your teen has a chronically runny nose, red swollen glazed or irritated looking eyes, has lost or gained weight recently, has had changes in their eating patterns, eats much more or less food than normal, have them evaluated by your family doctor because unless it is allergies, they are probably on drugs, or have an eating disorder, or both.
- If you “respect your child’s privacy” and choose not to regularly rifle through all their drawers and closets, allow them to lock their bedroom doors…then they are probably on drugs. No child should have a lock on their door. When your kid no longer lives under YOUR roof, they have earned the right to their own privacy. Keep in mind that if drugs are found in your home, you could lose your house! If you are a homeowner you have the right to rifle through your kids stuff. If you are a parent it is your duty in my opinion to diligently snoop through your kids stuff. Feel free to argue with me about this as you wish, but I sincerely believe that adolescents and teenagers should NOT have anything to hide from their parents. The best thing you can do for your kid is to be very very very nosy! As a doctor, I give full permission to snoop. Just do so respectfully and with the correct intentions.
- If you don’t know where your child is right now, who they are with, or what they are doing at this exact second in time…then they are probably on drugs. Ask lots of questions and check in with them often, always call other parents and check that they are where they said they were going to be.
- If your child suddenly has a new group of friends, asks to be left alone a lot, is doing poorly in school, is distracted/angry/depressed/or overly emotional they are probably on drugs.
- If you go out of town without hiring a house-sitter to watch your house, your kids are surely doing drugs and drinking while you are away.
What to Do if Your Child is on Drugs:
- Don’t waste time blaming yourself. Maybe it is your fault. Maybe you really are a crappy negligent parent, but more likely drug abuse is a product of stressful modern living. Blaming yourself and feeling guilty is not solving the problem. Be part of the solution.
- Get them help: I would opt initially for out-patient counseling in most cases. Sending your kid to an in-patient treatment facility just means that they are going to make friends with a hundred other drug addicts. You want your kid to be friends with healthy kids to move them out of the drug scene.
- Have your child evaluated for a mental health disorder. Social anxiety, depression, and anxiety are leading causes of “self medication” with drugs and alcohol. You need to treat the root cause of drug abuse.
- Most importantly, remember your role in the relationship. Be their parent not their best friend. Every parent wants to be their kid’s friend, but if you really love your kid, and want them to be healthy, you absolutely have to be their parent first and foremost. Let them know that you worry about them, and are doing all of these things out of love for them. As your child matures in to a responsible adult, you can easily move in to the role of friend and primarily parent by setting good examples.
- If they are upset about their privacy being violated, or not having enough freedom, tell them that they have the rest of their life to have these privileges. They have to earn these privileges from life. While they live for free under your roof though, they must follow the house rules. The rules are set up to keep them safe and help them be the best version of themselves possible. Show them this article.
- Be honest and talk to them about examples of people you know that have fallen on the wrong path of drugs and alcohol.
- Never give up! The more troubled your kid is, the more you will have to fight for them. Just never give up on them.
Remember that low self-esteem is a leading cause of drug abuse. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and that you are proud of them daily. Give them reasons to be proud of their family name. Remind them that they represent that name, and represent their family. Teaching them to have self love and respect for their bodies in conjunction with proactive parenting should keep them off drugs.
Feel free to add your insight, experience, tips, or advice in the comment’s section. I am sure other parents fighting the war on drugs will be most grateful.
Please forward this article to everyone you know that is a parent of a teenager, to serve as a reminder to get a PREVENTATIVE summer plan against drugs together NOW.
~ Dr. Nicole Sundene