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What makes your teen unique? You can probably list a dozen personality traits, skills, talents, and interests to paint a picture of the unique individual your teen is. Parents need to inform themselves about the unique pressures that face teenagers today...peer pressure, advertising, societal messages, parental messages, music, attitudes, and the challenges facing our nation as a whole impact your teens. Parents who develop a strategy early on in their child's life to communicate and support them during stressful times have the highest rate of success when it comes to resisting peer pressure to experiment with alcohol and drugs.
Create - Connect - Communicate
Create a safe, supportive environment within which to discuss the risks associated with alcohol and drug use
The younger you start the better. Don't be afraid that by talking about drugs you will peak their curiosity. They will hear about drugs whether you bring it up or not, and if as a parent you can get the first word on this topic, you will be ahead of the game when peers begin to pressure your teen into using illegal substances.
Connect with teens to find out what they know, how they feel, and what pressures they face
Don't assume your kids know everything they need to know about drugs, and don't leave it up to the school system to teach them. It can be counterproductive to assume they have it "easier" than you did. There are unique pressures facing teens today. Competition to get into colleges has increased as the number of children born to baby boomers has increased. The atmosphere we live in these days creates an overall feeling of tension and uncertainty, as students who once just worried about SAT scores are now worrying about FBI warnings of possible terrorist attacks.
Teaching the line, "Just Say No" is simply not enough. It neglects the underlying pressures that teens face every day. Its simplistic message tends to turn teens off, or become a source of humor for them. Rather than just telling them not to use drugs, teach them about the harmful effects and about the consequences (physical, mental, and emotional) they can expect. Don't talk down to your teens. Talk to them as you would any person you want to teach an important subject. Listen to their concerns, objections, fears, and questions. If they claim to have evidence these drugs are not harmless, don't simply dismiss their concerns. Instead, find scientific documentation of studies on the effects of various drugs. "Because I said so," is not enough for teens growing into independent adulthood.
Communicate clearly what you expect and what the consequences of use will be
Evidence clearly shows that the lowest rates of alcohol and drug use occur among those children and adolescents whose parents set clear expectations for their kids and follow through with discipline when the rules are broken. Why has the word "expectations" received such negative press? Throughout our lives we set expectations for ourselves. Young people need guidance in setting realistic goals and expectations for themselves. If you do not discuss your expectations about alcohol and drug use, your child will decide on his/her own what to do. Do not rely on teachers and school classes on drug abuse to teach your child. These courses are impersonal and often so general in content that teens rarely absorb the information in a personal way.
Wilderness therapy is one of the most effective ways of reaching defiant teens. SageWalk specializes in drug and alcohol issues. As seen on ABC's Brat Camp.