If you suspect a teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, do not panic and do not immediately speak to the teenager about the situation. Speaking to the teenager before you have a plan usually backfires because the conversation quickly disintegrates into a confrontation, which accomplishes nothing.
The first thing you need to do is think of people in your life who can be helpful and think of professionals to contact. Determine if there is another adult—an uncle, older brother, or favorite cousin—with whom the child has a good relationship and may have some positive influence. Is there a member of the clergy that can be helpful? Does the child have a pediatrician who has been a regular part of his or her care? Think of people in your life who can connect with the child you are concerned about. Enlist one or more of these people to spend time with the child, since he or she might open up to this person when not being open to a parent.
For most teenagers, parties are a rite of passage and attendance or lack of attendance at a party can significantly impact their social standing. In today’s society, young people feel the pressure and opinion of their peers constantly, thanks to social media and the “standards” set by celebrities and social media influencers.
It is very important that parents communicate with their children concerning parties where alcohol and drugs may be present. Forbidding a teenager from going to one of these parties is ineffectual in the long term, and it shuts down open communication between the parent and the child. Instead, before the party, the parent should say, “I know there may be drugs and alcohol present at this party, and there’s going to be potentially risky behaviors. I love you and I care about you, and I hope you are strong enough to resist them.”
Alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs, though legal, are often abused. People can get these substances whether they are of age or not, and the same thing is happening with marijuana. Walking through almost any neighborhood, one can smell marijuana everywhere. Dena Gorkin recalls walking down the street with her twelve-year-old daughter and her daughter said, “Smell that, Mom? That’s marijuana.”
There are many opinions as to what education really is. If you ask ten different people, you will might get ten different answers. Shimon Waronker, EdD, believes an education is primarily the development of character traits in a child.
If children are resilient, courageous, humble, and empathetic, then a parent has succeeded because no matter what challenge is thrown at them, they will have the tools they need to meet that challenge and overcome it. Character traits are critical in education and are really primary to academics. A lot of people will say, “What do you mean? Education is all about the academics!” But in truth, academics are secondary to the development of positive traits because a child with no resilience will give up and quit, and it makes no difference what challenging course material they receive—they will always have a propensity to quit.
The term bullying is used frequently, and while there certainly is a great deal of bullying happening, it is important to know that bullying is a very specific type of aggressive behavior. Very often children fight over things. Two children want the same ball on the playground, or two children want to be first down the slide. This is fighting between two peers of equal power. It is not bullying. It may be behavior that we want to work on, but it isn’t bullying.
Bullying is the deliberate abuse of power to harm another person. There are three critical components in that definition, so let’s consider each of them:
In the field of substance abuse prevention, there is a concept known as protective factors. These are conditions or behaviors present in an individual’s environment that decrease his or her chances of falling prey to addiction and other risky behaviors. The following are some protective factors that parents can provide, no matter the age of their children.