As a continuation of our series on Substance Abuse Prevention, we are sharing the following article from another one of our panelists - Julia Jensine, CDP. You can hear Julia address anonymous questions from our audience during WHAT'S THE HARM: A Substance Abuse Prevention Panel this Thursday, 11/14 at 7pm in the library at Woodward Middle School. The event is free, but requires registration: Information and Registration.
Most drug abuse prevention is taught to kids when they’re old enough to have drugs offered to them and focuses on why they should refuse those offers. I don’t think that’s anywhere near as effective as what happens in the home before they get to that age. I’m far from a perfect parent myself, and I don’t have any kind of credentials to spout off about what makes a good parent, but 30 years of counseling people with addictions has shown me that there are some skills that are commonly missing.
1. LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE
The most important thing, through every age, is making sure your child feels cherished, which is way different from spoiling them. In fact, a kid whose parents don’t set boundaries for him or her feels unloved, just as a kid whose parents are authoritarian feels unloved. Make sure you know who your kid is. Your kid needs to feel seen, known, listened to, appreciated and wanted for who he or she already is—that’s the key. If a kid feels he or she belongs and is good enough, she or he will be less susceptible to peer pressure later on.
2. TEACH THEM HEALTHY HABITS
Teach kids to take care of their bodies: to sleep when they’re tired, eat when they’re hungry, brush their teeth, eat growing food, limit sweets, take vitamins, all of it. Teach them about staying away from harmful chemicals. Knowing what leads to feeling good and what leads to feeling bad in the end (even if good in the beginning) is invaluable when drugs become an option.
3. HELP THEM LEARN HOW TO HANDLE THEIR EMOTIONS
Take care of kids’ emotions when they’re small as a prelude to teaching them to take care of their own emotions when they’re older: give them enough physical and verbal affection, help them manage frustration by taking them to a calm place, or even by letting them thrash it out with you there to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or anyone or anything. Teach them that all emotions are acceptable; it is only how we manage them that reflects on us. And that we can endure any emotion. Sit with them and help them endure unpleasant emotions. Addicts feel like they could die from their unpleasant emotions, which is partially due to the effect of the drug on their brains, but being able to tolerate unpleasant emotions and get back