Most kids end up trying drugs or alcohol at least once or more during their teenage years. Studies have shown that around eighty percent of kids have already tried alcohol while in high school. The dangers of children experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol are unsafe and illegal. Despite this fact, kids often easily give into peer pressure. A good way for parents and other trusted adults to help keep this problem at bay is to discuss drug and alcohol use and abuse with their children and students early, and to continue talking with them as they get older and enter their teenage years.
Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Use
The best way to keep children from using or abusing alcohol or drugs is to let them know about the consequences of drug and alcohol use in advance. Younger aged children who use drugs and alcohol are in danger of having their ability to understand reality altered so severely that they will undoubtedly make bad decisions. Children lack basic problem solving skills, so using a substance that can alter their brain function is very dangerous. Short and long term effects are two main consequences, and each one has its own important and dangerous implications. The short term effects of using alcohol and drugs include painful hangovers, bad breath, impaired eyesight and hand-eye coordination, distorted and poor hearing, inability to grasp feelings and emotions, and bad judgment that can lead to much worse consequences. The long term consequences can include teenage pregnancy, addiction, drinking and driving, unsafe and early sex, drowning, and serious injury or even death. Even longer term effects include liver disease, stomach problems, vitamin deficiency, damage to the central nervous system, heart disease, memory loss and possible death from overdose.
Create a Dialogue
Talking to elementary and middle school aged kids is an essential and very effective way for parents to help prevent them from using alcohol and drugs when it’s offered to them by their peers. Parents should help to encourage their kids to ask any questions they have about alcohol and drugs. Children are naturally curious and as they are exposed to substance topics, parents should be prepared to answer any questions that may arise. Creating a healthy dialogue between parent and child is important and can begin as young as age 11, which is approximately the sixth grade level. Educating your kids about the negative effects of drug and alcohol use may decrease their potential of experimenting at a young age. Middle school is the perfect time for parents to reinforce the consequences of using these substances.
Just Say “No”
Teaching kids to just say “no” when offered drugs or alcohol is still the easiest and most effective way of keeping them away from the horrible effects of alcohol and drug use and abuse. Everyone has the ability to make their own choices, and this also applies to using drugs or alcohol. Kids need to be taught a variety of ways to set limits using their own judgment to say “no” to alcohol and drugs. Different ways of saying no will help them in social situations that they may face at school, parties and hanging out with friends. Just saying, “No thanks,” can be an effective way for kids to stay away from substance abuse. It sets a boundary with the other person who is offering the drugs or alcohol and lets them know immediately that the child is not interested. If your teen is at a party and is offered drugs or alcohol, a simple shaking of the head, "No", is all that is needed. If things get to be too much or your child feels pressured, they can always call you and / or leave the situation. Cell phones are another way for parents to ensure safety for their children who are attending parties. A child may call a parent when they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed from peer pressure. Another tip is for kids to ask their friends questions when they are offered drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, just asking a peer where they got something will deter them from offering it or even doing it themselves.
Drinking and drug use are big problems for kids today. Early education about staying away from drugs and alcohol is effective. Parents should be educated about substance abuse in order to teach their children about the consequences of drugs and alcohol use.
For more information about kids and drugs or alcohol use, please refer to the following websites:
- The Facts About Alcohol
- Facts For Kids
- Talking with Kids About Drugs and Alcohol
- The D.A.R.E. Program
- The Anti-Drug
- Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse Information
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