Parenting in a drug-filled world

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Family Matters

By Sam George

Last week we began a new series on drug abuse among kids. We looked at the growing prevalence of highly potent drugs among children and teens these days. We also looked at some of the most commonly used drugs and why parents cannot assume that their kids will not be impacted by the prevailing drug culture.

Before discussing what parents need to do, let us look at why kids use drugs. Kids try drugs to fit in with a group of friends, or they might be curious, or just bored. A person may use illegal drugs for many reasons, but it is often because they help the person escape from reality. If a person is sad or upset, a drug can temporarily make the person feel better or forget about problems. But, this escape lasts only until the drug wears off.

Drugs don’t solve problems, of course. And using drugs often causes other problems on top of the problems the person had in the first place. A person, who uses drugs, can become dependent on them, or addicted. This means that the person’s body becomes so accustomed to having this drug that he or she can’t function well without it.

Once a person is addicted, it’s very hard to stop taking drugs. In fact, in order to obtain the same effects, addicts must intake a greater dosage of drugs. Stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting (throwing up), sweating, and tremors (shaking). These sick feelings continue until the person’s body gets adjusted to being drug free again.

Parents have a critical responsibility to protect their children from the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. While schools and national organizations have committed considerable resources to combat the problem of substance abuse, families remain a largely untapped and most valuable resource.

Prevention of substance abuse must become a “family affair,” challenging all members of the family to invest in healthy, drug-free lifestyles. Families with children ages 8 through 12 face a special challenge. It is during this period that children are making their first decisions about the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

It is never too early to prevent your children from trying drugs. Build lines of communication and do things as a family. Spend time together. Eat dinner, read together, play a game, attend social events. Show that fun doesn’t require drugs. Take an active interest in what is going on in your child’s life. Be a nosy parent. Know what they are doing, where they are, and who they’re with. Get to know their friends.

Spend at least a few minutes each day telling and showing your children that you care. Make sure they know you care that they are drug-free. Explain to your child that you are always there for them no matter what happens. Make sure that they know to come to you first for help or information. The extended family plays a major role in influencing a child’s life.

Look for the warning signs that your child may be developing a substance abuse problem and get help before the problem worsens. Effective prevention extends beyond the home into the community. Ensure that your community’s streets, playgrounds and schools are drug-free. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help before trying to help your kids. Good examples really matter in raising drug free kids.

Sam George is the executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America.  Sam is the author of the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation” (www.CoconutGeneration.com). He can be reached at sam@coconutgeneration.com

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