Drug Prevention During Youth: The Importance of Parents as Role Models

If you are a parent, you are your child’s greatest role model. From day one, your actions and attitudes are significant factors in the choices your children will make throughout their lives. Like it or not, your children will adopt many of your behaviors, including your use of alcohol and drugs; research has proven that a child who grows up with an addicted family member is at considerably higher risk of using drugs and alcohol, often beginning in adolescence. Consequently, a young person who uses drugs and alcohol is more likely to struggle in school, and is at higher risk of run-ins with the law.

Keep in mind, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Everybody makes mistakes. What is important, however, is to do your best, and to honestly admit mistakes and to model effective problem-solving skills.

If you drink, model responsible behavior. Don’t drink excessively and never drive when you’re under the influence. If your drinking is out of control, or if you use illegal drugs, seek treatment as soon as possible. Don’t wait, and don’t expect the problem to get better on its own. If you are in treatment, be honest and discuss the situation with your children using age-appropriate language.

There are many ways you can influence the lives of your children and minimize the chances that they will turn to drugs and alcohol:

  • Walk your talk. It does absolutely no good to talk about substance abuse when your actions prove otherwise.
  • Talk openly about drugs and alcohol with your kids. Educate yourself first, if necessary, and get your facts straight. Explain the effects of drugs on the body without resorting to scare tactics. If children are old enough, talk about risks associated with drug use, such as sexually transmitted diseases, legal issues and threats to future education and career plans.
  • Don’t wait to have regular conversations about drugs and alcohol. Children feel peer pressure early and are influenced not only by parents, but by friends and prominent actors, musicians and athletes in the media.
  • Set clear, consistent guidelines. Discuss your expectations and the consequences of violating your boundaries. Make it clear that you will be disappointed if your child uses drugs, as children don’t want to disappoint their parents. However, be sure your child is assured of your love, no matter what.
  • Demonstrate how to solve problems and overcome obstacles constructively without resorting to drugs and alcohol. Show your kids that you can enjoy life and have fun without benefit of drugs and alcohol.
  • Display positive ways of communicating with other people, including friends and family members. Be respectful. Exercise restraint in difficult situations.
  • Take an active role in your child’s school and extra-curricular activities. Spend time with your kids every day. Your participation helps build self-esteem and a sense of purpose.
  • Speak to a counselor or advisor if you have trouble communicating with your children.

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