The Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce is often asked the question, ‘what can we do to protect our children from drugs?’
Understandably, parents want to know how they can deter their children from using drugs. There appears to be a great deal of fear about methamphetamine and other illicit drugs, but many don’t see alcohol as a drug even though it causes more harm than any other drug.
One of the first things parents can do to reduce the likelihood of children taking up drugs is to take a look at themselves. Parents are the main role models in a child’s life and their actions speak louder than the words of others.
Do you as a parent come home after work and always have a drink to relax? Do you comment that you’ve had a bad day so you deserve a drink? What about when at social events; do you have a drink so you can have more fun?
Children may interpret that as needing alcohol, a drug, to relax, turning to a drug to make you feel better and having more fun when under the influence of a drug. Subtle messages children can be picking up.
Parents, as a result, could discuss and role model alcohol- and drug-free ways to relax, cope with a bad day and show that you don’t need to have alcohol to have fun. Maybe some social events you attend or host could also be alcohol-free.
There are other things parents can do to reduce the likelihood of their children using alcohol or other drugs. Social connection is important in feeling part of a group, whether it is through sport or other activities.
Be there for your children and spend quality time with them. Know their friends also and who they are hanging around with. Encourage them to engage in activities that interest them, support them in those interests and to talk to you or others if they are having problems.
Promote resilience. Promote balance in life and don’t put unnecessary pressure on them to be perfect. Life is tough and there are other ways to deal with it than taking drugs.
Don’t always solve your children’s problems. Let them make mistakes and work some things out for themselves.
Talk to your children about drug and alcohol use and give them the facts rather than scare tactics. If you provide the facts they are more likely to believe you.
Discuss ways to cope with peer pressure. Some teenagers when attending parties have used strategies such as saying they are on antibiotics and can’t drink or using stubby holders where you can’t tell what they’re drinking.
Although parents’ concerns are justified, remember most children will not develop a problem with drugs.
Also remember teenagers are curious but if they have positive role modelling and appropriate support and education, hopefully, they can make the most appropriate choices for themselves.