It is a big, bad, high-tech world out there these days and the strategies parents use to keep children safe from drugs and alcohol have to adapt with the changing times. While every generation believes that the following generation matures faster than they did, the Internet and the world of gadgets has undermined parental authority in ways that were hard to foresee a decade ago. After all, why ask parents questions when Google has every answer you could seek? Children, with good reason, sense that the Internet has more answers and quicker answers than anyone they know, including their parents. Pretty soon, a parent seems like an annoyance, rather than a resource.
Still, the basics do not change. Parental supervision that once covered playgrounds, television and movies, now adds smart phones and the Internet to the equation. But the chances are, you will never keep up with the explosion of information that now hits our children at young ages. A Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine study found 75 percent of popular movies showed behavior defined as unhealthy, including unprotected sex (in 32 percent of the films), smoking (68 percent) and alcohol intoxication (32 percent). There was also demonstrations of “non-injected illicit drug use” in 7 percent of the 87 films studied. In total, “of the 200 most popular movies of the past 20 years … at least a third … depicted negative health behavior,” the study found.
And, as everyone knows, many movies considered mainstream portray the use of drugs and alcohol as acceptable ways to act out or to “party.” When did party become a verb, anyway?
Here are some clues that could help keep your kids safe and sober:
Supervise and talk
Supervision is not the end of the world. If your children resent it: Tough. But supervision is not enough. If your children saw a movie with questionable behavior, discuss it with them.
Watch for behavior changes
If your child’s behavior changes abruptly, there may be a problem afoot. It may be something simple – a friend who ignored them at school. But it may be something more dramatic than that.
Keep an ear to the ground
You don’t have to spy on your children. They love to talk about what’s going on in their lives. But when they talk about friends who know friends who are into drugs or drinking, don’t just pretend you didn’t hear it. Talk to your kids and determine the risks.
Keep kids busy
Kids like to stay busy … and they love accomplishments. As such, channel their energy into sports and into activities that keep them out of harm’s way, but also gives them a sense of accomplishment. The more they accomplish, the more they will feel that taking drugs risks what they value.
Live by example
Be the best example you can be for your kids. If you have a history of drugs or alcohol, be honest and real about that. Don’t dance around your honesty just to protect them. Kids may even be more sensitive than adults to efforts you make to be cagey or dishonest.
Teach your children to be safe
You can’t always be with your kids. Teachers and chaperones, while they do their best, also cannot realistically promise to have an eye on your kids at all times. With that in mind, practice with your kids how to stay safe. First, teach them how to recognize unsafe situation. Then role-play scenarios in which they are confronted with tough choices and have them practice saying “no.”
Here are some ways to recognize an unsafe situation:
Someone asks you to do something illegal.
Someone asks you to do something grownups do.
Someone asks you to make up your mind in a hurry.
Someone says that “It’s OK, you won’t get caught.”
Someone offers you something in secret.
Someone older than you asks you to do something.
Someone asks you to do something in a secret note or in a whisper.
Someone says, “Don’t tell anyone you did this (or) where you got this.”
Someone without authority to do so asks you to swallow, snort, ingest or smoke something.
Help for this article came from The Canyon Malibu at http://thecanyonmalibu.com/drug-treatment/sobriety-and-environment/ and the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration at http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention. More info from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine