Drugs as we know have and still are a huge problem in today’s society. The other week I was gobsmacked though after having a conversation with a friend of mine about her teenage son that had started secondary school. He came home and told her about a boy who had got caught selling drugs in the school hallway. He then went on to tell her how the kids are easily buying drugs online and arranging meet ups.
This boy was around 12 years of age. I was absolutely horrified. When you send your children to school you are presuming they will be safe. When I was growing up as a young teenager, yes, drugs had always been around and there were occasions that you could easily enough to fall into the wrong gangs. I did hang out with a bad crowd for a little while but thankfully I never got into drugs. This was more because my parents were very strict and I was more scared of what would happen if they’d find out, but we assume a lot of times that teenagers fall into drugs because of bad upbringing etc. but that is not always the case as I have witnessed with some of the people I grew up with sadly.
I look at my 8 & 6 year old now and observe how their childhood is different than mine and I do get a little scared at times. Soon they will be the same age as that boy who was getting drugs pushed on him in school. They are in a world of where it is vastly changing and a more exposed to things than we were. It’s impossible to keep them in a bubble the way we were at times. Drugs were not exposed to me in school and we hadn’t got the internet, so when I was in school or home playing up in my bedroom my parents knew I was safe. My thoughts were, This is another one of my fears as a parent. I can’t make drugs go away but what can I do right now that may prevent them from using or considering using if and when they will be exposed at a later stage.
Drug use and addiction starts at relatively-early ages for many children nowadays; we exist in a media-saturated world, where easy access to dangerous, incriminating drugs is commonplace. Your child has simple and easy access to the Internet, to mature content online, or to sensitive shows being aired on channels. Even with all these media-related influences removed from the equation, any young individual’s daily interactions with peers or older friends opens hazardous and life-threatening gateways.
However, this does not necessarily mean crude shut-down of your child’s access to the Internet or shows online; neither does it mean that you can isolate your care from other children and people. This will only serve to alienate and distance your child from you, and potentially aggravate them to rebel in ways that specifically involve drug use. The internet, when safety practices are in place for children can be a very educationall resource also.
Educate from an early age
Educating your child about the dangers and terrors of drug abuse should take place as early as possible. Implementing carefully-worded and engaging presentations on the topic at the primary-level could help children better familiarise with the concept from a younger age.
An error sometimes parents make is in underestimating the ability and extent of a child’s comprehension.
Regardless of your care being what you consider “only a child”, they exist in a world which is far different from the one you may have been raised in. Understanding these dynamics is the first step in accepting that your child may already be familiar with the concept of drugs by the time you decide to have a talk – and not familiar in a way you would want.
Growing children consume and process new information every single day. When and how this daily knowledge is taken in is extremely important. So don’t let age be a factor that holds you back; prepare age-appropriate presentations or conversations to deal with the topic.
As a parent, by now, you find you have been constantly talking to your child about bad foods, snacks, sugar etc. and the reasons why you are saying no to them at times because of the health risks, bad for your teeth and so on, you could treat this same as drugs when talking to them. You can explain the differences of why the medicines from a doctor are ok and why the other substances that are illegal drugs are bad for your body and what they do. Normalizing the topic is the first step in combating it. As a teenager, your care should not find the concept of drugs spiking their curiosity. Conversations regarding the dangers and implications of prolonged drug use should openly take place. From a young age, your child should understand how drugs work, and how they affect their bodies and minds. Then, should they face the option of using dangerous drugs at any point in their lives, they will know that there is no fantasy-pull or mysterious appeal to them. It also helps if you do your own research on what drugs are out there as more often than not there’s always a new street drug so it helps to keep up with the upcoming dangers – Here is an example of some of the common drugs today and the street names are and the effects .
Teach them confidence to say NO
Teach your child to stand up for themselves and say ‘no’. Try a bit of role playing and ask them how they would act if their friend was for e.g. Trying to force them to play a game or do something they felt was wrong. Teach them that it’s ok to say no and if that friend doesn’t like them because of it then they are not a good friend. Ask them what they think of their best friend for eg and why they like them playing with them.
Removing the appeal
To a young person grappling with social pressures and expectations, the appeal of drugs seems paramount. A very large chunk of that appeal comes from the mystery attached to them. If you, as a parent, always keep the topic brushed under the rug, and handle it as if it were tabooed, it only adds to the mystery and pull of the topic in the eyes and mind of a child.
Conversation is key
When dealing with any sensitive topic, communication should be regarded as your utmost priority as a parent. Encourage your child to ask any questions he or she may have regarding drug use and addiction. Be patient and engaging in your responses; do not shy away from the topic, or shut down any questions. It is important to be as realistic as possible, but in ways that a child would effectively process.
Make sure this method of open-dialogue stays consistently active as your child grows older. If your child understands that they can rely on you for their answers, they will most likely approach you for counselling and advice on similar topics. Educate and advise them on ways to deal with peer pressure. Lay down your own house-rules firmly from an early age. Ensuring that this level of communication keeps up is crucial in making sure your child has the confidence and knowledge to avoid drug abuse and addiction at a later age.
As your child gets older, simply relaying information at the right time is not enough; parents must stay alert for any signs their care might show of being pulled into drug use. Monitor their behaviour, moods, and schedules. Make sure they are spending time with the right group of friends, and notice the kind of content they consume and enjoy. Are they withdrawn, irritable? Do you notice a drop in appetite, or dip in grades? Can you account for all the hours they are away from home?
Mostly such changes could simply be a result of a teenager going through a routine phase. However, it is always better to stay safe and make sure that nothing is abnormally amiss. Approach your child; make sure they know you notice these changes. Ask frequent questions, and shut down any interaction you suspect to be harmful for them.
There are many reasons why children get into drugs. They feel they don’t fit in, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, peer pressure , thinking it’s just having a bit of fun with their friends or sometimes just to reach out.
It is just as important, however, to trust your care when he or she says everything is fine. This trust is imperative in building your child’s confidence in themselves, and you. From an early age, engage your child in confidence-building exercises. Encourage participation in sports, debate, or plays. Remind them of their value and strength, and prepare them from an early age not to give in to social pressures. As a parent, you have an important role to play in making sure your son or daughter has the confidence and self-esteem to make it through those tricky teenage years without falling victim to drug abuse and addiction.
A heavy responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parents in the digital era; now more than ever, dangerous avenues are open for your child to harmfully explore and engage in. Educating and communicating from an early age is fundamental in making sure your child understands the workings and hazards of drug abuse. Confidence-building exercises help your child successfully steer their way through life unharmed. Staying conscientiously alert in a way that does not alienate your child from yourself will allow you to be prepared for new topics, questions, and situations.
Keeping your children safe from drug abuse starts early. Try to stay alert, stay empathetic, and allow them to express themselves and pose questions. Honesty is better than masking truths, and will only equip your child better for a real world with real risks.
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