Educate Yourself. It's not a matter of learning the latest street talk. It's a matter of learning why opioids (heroin and prescription drugs) are so
dangerous. That alcohol, tobacco and marijuana can often lead to harder drug use. That every illegal drug has the potential of causing catastrophic damage to your child.
Start Early. Just as surely as you need to teach your kids not to play in the road, you need to teach them about the dangers of drugs, including smoking and
drinking. They'll very likely be exposed to drugs from kindergarten on. So say it early. Say it often. And match the message with your child's age.
Take a Stand. Be clear that you will not tolerate any use of alcohol and other drugs. Let children know they will be punished, e.g., grounded, no television, if
Listen. Don't do all the talking. Listen. Ask questions. Find out what they think. If you don't listen to them, they won't listen to you. Carpooling is a great
time to listen and learn about your children and their friends.
Set the Rules. Kids need to know exactly what the rules are. The rules have to be clear, consistent, reasonable-- and enforced. Every kid will try to find out
exactly how far he or she can go.
Teach Responsibility. Help your children to recognize and accept responsibility for their own actions. Children need to learn that what they do affects other
people, as well as themselves.
Learn Symptoms. Changes in your child's behavior and appearance can be symptoms of drug use. And there are others. Learn the symptoms. Although they don't
necessarily mean drugs, the more symptoms you see the greater the likelihood.
Get involved. Perhaps the single biggest deterrent to drug abuse is open communication. That's almost impossible unless you've built a foundation. By doing
things with your children. By getting involved with their school and their sports. By knowing their friends.
Don't Preach. Try not to preach or you'll lose them. If a conversation lasts more than 5 minutes, you're preaching. Better to have lots of 5-minute
conversations. Kids have short attention spans and shorter memories.
Be Consistent. Be in touch with the parents of your children's friends and adopt similar policies, e.g., curfews, no alcohol at parties, chaperones, and
Promote Alternative Activities. Teach your children that aggressive behaviors are not acceptable. Help children channel their energy into sports or other
community programs such as after-school activities, PAL, Department of Recreation, and local community-based programs.
Understanding Peer Pressure. Help adolescent children learn how to say "no" to peers, yet "save face" by using you as an excuse; e.g., I'd get
Assess Your Behavior. Look at your own behaviors and identify ways in which you may, by example, be inadvertently teaching your children that abusing drugs and
alcohol is okay.
Ask for Help. If you don't feel you're getting anywhere, ask for help. Your school may have a drug counselor. Your doctor or county health organization can give
you a referral. You can also call the national help line at 1800-662-HELP. To learn more about how to cope with the dangers of drugs call for a free parent's handbook for the Partnership for a
Drug-Free America. 1800-624-0100