Parents can be the best deterrent when it comes to stopping their kids from using drugs or alcohol.  On the other hand, parents can also enable this kind of destructive behavior.  It all depends on what type of parent you want to be to your children.

Generally speaking, most parents would say that they want to be the kind of parent that helps their children live long, happy, and healthy lives, free of drugs and alcohol.  So, what are some things that you can do as a parent to prevent drug abuse by your kids?

First, you should know that research shows that the primary reason given by kids who don’t use drugs or alcohol is their parents, and a desire to not disappoint them by engaging in this behavior.  These kids have indicated that their parents are a positive role model and influence in their lives, and they want to maintain the good relationship that they share with their parents.  So, how do you establish and maintain this kind of positive relationship with your children?  It’s not as hard as you might think if you follow some of these tips:

Establish Good Communication

Having open communication with your children is one of the best things you can do.  This will establish a trusting relationship between you, which allows you the steer them towards positive friends and activities.  Some ways to establish good communication include:

  • Talk to your children every day from a young age.  Ask them about their day and be willing to share with them what your day was like.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with the nod of a head or a simple yes or no.
  • Part of good communication is to be a good listener as well.  Give your children your undivided attention when you have these conversations.  They will notice if you are not really paying attention and will see through your efforts.
  • Be sincere and open with your kids.  Answer their questions honestly and without being judgmental.  As they age, you need to be prepared for the types of questions that might come up, which might require some advance preparation on your part.

Get Involved With Your Children’s Lives

Studies have shown that kids and teens are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol if their parents are involved in their daily lives.  Knowing that an adult who cares about them also cares about what they do goes a long way towards deterring destructive behavior.  Ways to get involved include:

  • Spend time with your children or teens each day talking or doing something that they want to do.  This can include helping them with homework.
  • Understand their school and extra-curricular activities and make a point to attend games or performances to show your interest and support.
  • Be tuned in to your children’s moods so that you recognize when something is bothering them, and then ask what you can do to help.

Set Boundaries and Rules and Stick to Them

It is important that your children know what your expectations are of them, and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the rules.  Be reasonable and objective, and fairly enforce the rules on a consistent basis.  Research indicates that kids who live in homes where there are no rules, or rules that are overly harsh, are more likely to use drugs

Be a Good Role Model

While it might not always be obvious, children like to imitate the adults in their life.  For this reason, it is important that how you behave matches what you say.  If you tell your children that alcohol is bad for them, but then come home from work and have several drinks before dinner, your actions do not match your words.  Children see through this quickly and will not only imitate your behavior, but will also learn that you don’t mean what you say.

Talk to Your Children About Drugs

If you have open communication with your children from an early age, it should be a natural conversation to start talking to them about drugs when they reach the age of about ten.  If they ask questions before then, answer them in a manner that is appropriate for their age.

One thing that studies have shown is that children whose parents talk to them about drugs early and often are less likely to use drugs or alcohol.  In order to prepare yourself for these conversations, you should learn what you can about substance abuse, and then tailor it to be appropriate for the age of you children.  Repeating a consistent message in terms they understand for the stage of their life will go far in deterring drug use.  Through taking these actions, you can potentially do your part to prevent teen addiction.