This is a guest post from Jan Rao, Executive Director of “Willows in the Wind.”
I was recently asked if I would take the time to list 5 to 10 things that parents can do when their children are in middle and high school to prevent substance use. I polled our Directors to get their opinions. All of us have traveled the road with our teens to Wilderness, and then on to Therapeutic Boarding School and then the transition back to our homes.
Our teens are now young adults and have moved on to living their own very independent lives, I am happy to say. All of us have learned quite a lot in the process, but the biggest single lesson that we have all learned, and I steal this phrase from a therapist who has also become a valued friend, “we must “behave” our way to good parenting”.
We cannot expect our teens to respect us or listen to anything we have to say unless we set the model for good behavior.
What does that mean “good behavior”?
- Being respectful, in any situation.
- Lowering our voices as they raise theirs.
- Being consistent with what we are asking.
- Controlling our own emotions even when we want to scream.
- Holding to the limits that we have set…
I agree with the previous author on this subject. I do not believe we can prevent substance use. Someone once said to me that there are some kids that no matter what we do, will still sneak out that window. We can only do our best.
However, take heart in knowing that when you establish a good family relationship, they may still sneak out the window, but eventually, they will come back through it again.
1. The best deterrent to drugs and alcohol is “parents”.
We must acknowledge our children and recognize them. In getting to really know our children we must take the time to really be with them, taking the time to notice what they do, what they say, what they struggle with, what they achieve.
Acknowledging means taking the time to “notice. Getting an “A” on a difficult math test will mean very little until we convey that we recognize their effort.
2. Set limits, set limits, set limits.
They need help setting personal boundaries. Depending on what is the issue for your child, ask yourself does it go over the line. Extreme behaviors of any kind can set the stage for substance use later on.
If it’s cell phone use set a limit in your home. Cell phones during dinner are to be turned off (for everyone). Cell phones are to be turned off and put away in a community place at a certain time every night. (This is for everyone).
No one sleeps with their cell phone. If curfew is a problem, set a time to be home on school nights and on the weekends. If curfew is abused there has to be a reasonable consequence that is understood ahead of time. Set boundaries and most of all stick to them!
3. Know your children’s friends and make it a point to meet the parents.
If a party is happening at a friend’s house, call the parent and make sure an adult will be home and present…
4. Open up your house as a safe place for your kid’s friends to come for studying, or just hanging out.
Start a small monthly or weekly parenting group. Invite them to your home or go out for a bite together. Collaborate on how you can help each other out, share concerns and successes about parenting without violating any personal information about your teen. Trade ideas; what’s worked what hasn’t. Discuss boundary setting, and collectively what you all would like to see for your kids. It takes a village! Talk to one another, and most of all, don’t be afraid to “parent”.
5. Talk about drugs and alcohol as a matter of fact.
It’s in our society and surrounds our kids every day. Saying no is just not enough because too many kids just can’t see the consequences of crossing this line. We must talk about the effects of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and we must choose a receptive moment when they are willing to talk with us about this subject. Because we are adults our job first and foremost is to keep our kids safe, so we must also send a clear message that we see things differently at times.
We must let it be known that the most important thing is their safety, so there is to be no drinking/drugs and driving, and they are never to get into a car with someone that has been drinking or using drugs.
Have them call home for a ride or take a cab but convey the message that their life is more important than anything else and in your home safety comes first.
With an extensive business background of over forty years, Jan Rao and her husband have managed their own sales and marketing firm since 1979. As a parent of a therapeutic boarding school graduate, she founded “Willows In The Wind” in 2007. Willows is a non-profit organization serving the needs of parents who place their teens in wilderness and therapeutic boarding schools.
How do you think parents can help stop substance use? Let us know in comments. If you liked this post, please share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Thank you!