Keep Your Teen Drug-Free
As the mom of three sons, negative statistics about kids and drugs worry me. And it doesn't help that access to drugs is easier than it was when we were kids. None of us want our child hooked on drugs, but we all know it can happen. What can we do to keep our kids drug-free?
Fortunately, recent data shows that keeping kids away from drugs is easier than we think. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse recently reported that parental disapproval of drug use makes a big difference in whether or not kids choose to experiment.
"Our most recent data shows that kids who say their parents would 'strongly disapprove' if they tried marijuana once or twice‚ reported using an illicit drug at a rate of 7.1 percent, compared with 31.2 percent for youth who thought their parents 'did not strongly disapprove,'" says Edward H. Jurith, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Taking an open and unequivocal stance against drugs with our children is the best way parents can prevent their children from using drugs."
The survey also reported a decline in drug use for 12- and 13-year-olds, and that to keep this decline going we all need to sit our kids down at an early age and educate them about the dangers of substance abuse. But preteens and teens have a tendency to "tune out" parental lectures, so keep the discussion interactive by helping your child discover their anti-drug. An anti-drug is something that kids can utilize in place of drugs to feel good.
Laurel and Ashley Willoughby, 13-year-old twins from Park City, Utah, know their mom, Anita, strongly disapproves of drugs because she's told them so. And Anita Willoughby encourages Laurel to use art as an anti-drug by signing her up for classes and enabling her to experiment with different styles and mediums at home.
Consequently, Laurel can rely on art to lift her mood and build her confidence. "If I have a bad day at school or get into a fight with a friend I come home and do an art project. Art takes stress out of my life and makes me feel good again," she says. "My mom doesn't want me using drugs, and that matters a lot, but I realize doing drugs is my own choice and I choose 'no'. I don't want to mess up my life."
Her twin sister, Ashley, agrees. "I don't have any reason for drugs. Music is my anti-drug and learning to play something on my drums and then playing it really good makes me happy," she explains. "If you want to keep your kids off drugs my advice is to find something that they're interested in and help them focus on it. My mom lets me take private drum and piano lessons because she knows music is important to me."
Like many of their peers, the Willoughby twins have bought into the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign from the Office of Drug Control Policy. Both teens learned about anti-drugs from seeing television and print advertisements. These anti-drug ads featured eight kids from across the country that were chosen to tell their peers what their anti-drugs are.
One of the teens in the commercials, Heather Mitchell, 18, of Pembroke, Mass., chose "My Future" as her anti-drug. In her commercial an animated Heather "tries on" various personalities (like a cheerleader and a hop-hop kid) and then becomes herself again – rejecting all stereotypes including trying drugs. Mitchell plans to turn her fight against drug and alcohol abuse into a lifelong crusade, and her goal is to work within the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In an interview on Freevibe.com (a website developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and key educators to help kids understand the dangers of substance abuse and make responsible life decisions) Mitchell says, "My anti-drug 'my Future,' consists of my outward strong stance and personal convictions pertaining to drug use, and not being afraid to voice this. I sincerely credit this to my parents." She adds that her parents made it clear to her at a young age that drugs and alcohol are unacceptable and that they are always there for her with advice and direction when she has questions.
Replace Drug Abuse With Anti-Drug Use
Jurith applauds Mitchell's strong anti-drug stance and his agency's ads are designed to appeal to her peers and get them thinking about their own anti-drugs. "We want youth to identify the many things in their lives they choose to do instead of drugs. So far, over 100,000 kids have submitted their 'anti-drugs' to our freevibe.com website," Jurith says. "We hope that this movement will continue to gain momentum as America's youth discover the positive things that stand between them and drugs."
Of course, anti-drugs differ for every child. Jurith encourages all parents to help kids find appealing anti-drugs. Some of his suggestions include:
- Hobbies: Does your child like art, scrapbooking or finding and collecting fossils?
- Sports: Maybe your son enjoys the camaraderie of a team or the quiet satisfaction of individual sports. Or maybe non-traditional sports, like fencing, appeal to your daughter.
- Community activities: Check your newspaper, library or local websites to find activities linked to your child's interests.
Like Heather Mitchell's parents, you can help keep your child off drugs. Talk to him or her about why it's important to stay away from drugs. And assist your child with finding an anti-drug that works. You'll be replacing possible drug abuse with anti-drug use.