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Substance Abuse and the Growing Child! Why Teens and Adolescents End up Using Substances and How Parents Can Help Prevent This!

Bring awareness and educate your child early on about the dangers of substance abuse by having conversations early in their life.

“I WANT MY SON BACK,” said the worried, broken, and powerless MOTHER!
A loving son, brother, and the most adorable, caring human of whom any mother would be proud. He is gripped in substance abuse – E-cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. His life is at stake and this is killing me day by day. What should I do?

MY DAUGHTER – who we loved to our hearts and gave all the love and comforts she needed – has started hating us. She stays out late at night and comes home drunk…..Where did I go wrong?

MY SON- my 22-year-old son died of a drug overdose. He just finished his PG and was about to start his life. Why did this happen to me?

And Many More!

These just scratch the surface of the rising cases of youth in India who are in use of psychotropic substances/psychoactive substances, including alcohol, nicotine, and drugs.

Substance use in teens and adolescents ranges from experimentation to severe addiction leading to substance use disorder. The child is put at risk of fights, accidents, sexual abuse, and overdose.
Substances when consumed affect the working of the brain and alter mood, thinking, reasoning, awareness, and insight. A new study says – adolescents into substance use are at risk of dying prematurely 5% more than their peers. Studies say that 90% of the consumption is from the young clan, as early as 13 years of age.

Surprising, isn’t it?

Substance abuse drowns our children into a black hole and distorts their vision. They lose perspective and forget what they are and what they are capable of. And, in this darkness – Effective Parenting Becomes Not Only Tough But Next To Impossible.

Let us not wait till it gets worse. Parents of middle and high school children should understand that it is not only the child’s problem but a parent’s problem as well! Research consistently proves that parents have the greatest influence on their child’s substance use behaviors and that only they can positively impact their child’s substance use decisions and choices.

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Read on to know some very simple Parental Supervision And Preventive Measures that can help prevent substance use in teens and adolescent children.

Monitoring his media exposure (TV viewing, Internet, music, etc)
It is estimated that children between 6 to 12 years spend an average of 6 hours a day on social media – 6 long hours just looking at their phones and pads. No wonder the child is apt to become anxious and worried and develop low self-esteem and a feeling of inadequacy. Their mental health is at stake. To help them cope, all chances of them turning to alcohol and drugs.
One study found that teens who use social media are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana than their peers who don’t. Reason? Social media glamorizes alcohol and drugs. Alcohol on Instagram and Facebook is always shown in a positive social context and children develop FOMO (fear of missing out)

Our role as a parent is:

Limit their social media usage
Practice open communication – a conversation eye to eye, with emotions, explaining why they are given a certain amount of time online and hearing from them their experiences Listening can go long way in understanding what they are struggling with
Guide them to disconnect from devices and have regular human interactions
Address problems early

Imposing a curfew – Monitor the child’s whereabouts
Setting curfews is enduring that the child returns home safely at an appropriate time. Getting home late can make the child late for school/other important commitments the next day. This will help them:
Learn to be responsible about the time and places they visit
Help them shoulder responsibilities as they grow
Will help them into a smooth transition to adulthood.
When positive habits are reinforced in a child and the child’s whereabouts are monitored by parents, it helps mitigate the risks for your child.
Children, especially teenagers love spending time with their peers and therefore a curfew could be rejected and authority challenged. See to it that you maintain flexibility, converse with them, include them in your decision-making, allow them to share their thoughts, and find time to do it together.

Establish and Enforce healthy expectations from their child
Every parent wants a perfect child and not all children are born naturally perfect. Maybe the child is not fitting your expectations of a perfect child, however, this should not be communicated to the child in any manner – verbally, emotionally, or through your behaviors. If you have unrealistic expectations, the child loses his identity and will internally crave to be accepted by you. The inner conflicts and strife may result in the child hanging out with cool kids or other wrong companions and getting into substance use.

Make talking about substances a part of your general health and safety conversation
Bring awareness and educate them about the dangers of substance abuse by having conversations early in the child’s life. Cultivate a connection with your child. Regularly have meals with them. Research says that parents who have meals with their children just 6 or more times a week decrease the child’s risk of having alcohol by 50%. When you create a supportive and nurturing environment for the child, children make better decisions.

Understand Peer Pressure and Experimental curiosity
Teens and adolescents are biologically wired for adventure or /experimentation in life. This can become one of the main causes of them being attracted to trying vaping, alcohol, drugs, or other substances. This can start as early as 13 years of age and leads to hampering their physical, psychological, and social growth. Seeking thrills and taking risks are the normal developmental need of an adolescent. Peer pressures and Role models(such as celebrities) are the strongest risk factor for an adolescent child.
Parents can prevent this by being positive role models:
By not consuming alcohol or tobacco or drugs
Having an open relationship with the child
Always being there for the child
Talking honestly and openly about the risks of substance use to the child
If you have not educated him about the dangers of having these substances the child might see no harm in having them.

Last And Not The Least – Avoid Delaying
Immediately take appropriate action to protect your child, when you see that something is just not right. If you notice any warning signs:
Like missing classes or skipping school
A change in peer group
A decline in academic performance
Change in eating and sleeping habits
Poor hygiene
Mood swings and instability
Loss of interest in hobbies
Unexplained guilt
Indifference to relationships with family members and friends
Sores in the mouth, on the lips or both

Finally, this quote says, “There is no such thing as a Perfect Parent. Just be a real one” Sue Atkins

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About the Author

AllYour Tomorrows

With graduation in Psychology and a PG diploma in Psychological counseling, started my career as a school counselor. Got a chance to attend the Train the Trainer seminar at Infosys Banglore and thereby started my read more...

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