You Need to Know These Five Things to Save Your Kids
We naturally assume that kids from wealthy families are at lower risk of substance abuse and addiction, or that “at-risk” is a phrase reserved for economically challenged families.
In reality, it appears that the opposite may be closer to the truth. Several studies conducted over the last few years strongly suggest that children from wealthy, privileged families are two to three times as likely to be diagnosed with an addictive disorder.
Research also indicates that children who grow up in wealthy families are at higher risk of depression and anxiety.
Nobody cansay for sure why wealthy kids are more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction, but unrealistic expectations and unrelenting pressure may be partly to blame.
Others suggest that privileged kids can easily purchase fake IDs, or that they have easy access to drugs and alcohol, or that they’re growing up in a culture that accepts, and maybe even expects, youth to use drugs and alcohol.
It’s possible that wealthy, busy parents don’t take the problem seriously. They may assume that everything is fine, especially if their offspring appear to be thriving academically and socially.
Regardless of economic or social status, all parents want their children to enjoy happy, productive lives, but it’s a mistake to assume that wealth will keep your kids safe. It won’t.
Here are five things you can do to save your kids.
1. Monitor Your Expectations
Most kids from wealthy, high-achieving parents are under pressure to succeed, but it can be depressing and anxiety-inducing when your child thinks he falls short of your lofty expectations.
Don’t be an overbearing parent. It’s normal for you to want your child to do the best they can do, but too much emphasis on success can create tremendous stress. You may not be aware that you’re placing an unreasonably heavy burden on your child’s young shoulders.
Be realistic, and don’t load your kid with more pressure than he can handle. The world won’t come to an end if your child doesn’t get into the most prestigious university, if he excels at art or music instead of sports, or if a good book is more attractive than an important social event. Lower the pressure a notch and help your child choose a way that feels rewarding and appropriate for him — not for you.
Pressure to excel may be coming from all angles, including teachers, coaches, friends, grandparents, or other family members. You may need to step in and advocate for your child if the high expectations of others are more than she can handle.
Remember that extracurricular activities are intended to be enjoyable, and they can also be great stress relievers.
2. Establish Firm Boundaries
It’s up to you to establish firm, reasonable boundaries for your child. Keep in mind that your child is just that — a child. Even smart, high-achieving kids aren’t always good at making wise decisions, and things aren’t likely to change significantly for a few more years. Your child’s brain isn’t fully developed for a few more years, or until she reaches her mid-twenties.
Firm guidelines show that you care. Determine the consequences and how you’ll enforce them if your child breaches the boundaries. State the expectations and the ramifications clearly. Be prepared to follow through, or your word will mean nothing.
Be calm, firm, consistent, and beware of overreacting. Avoid threats and arguments and remember that it’s normal for kids to be less than thrilled at a new set of rules. Pay attention and provide praise when your guidelines are followed. Avoid negativity. Keep your focus on what you want to achieve.
Know where your child is and who he’s hanging out with, and don’t hesitate to ask his whereabouts. You’re the parent; you have a right to know what’s going on in your child’s life.
Encourage her to choose friends based not on money, but admirable qualities such as honesty, respect, and kindness toward others.
If your child happens to land in trouble, don’t be too quick to bail her out, even when money is no object. Allow her to realize the consequences of her actions before you step in. Try not to worry too much about what your friends, family, or coworkers think; the well-being of your child is always more important than reputation.
3. Be Generous With Your Support and Encouragement
Offer consistent and sincere encouragement, which helps your child build confidence and self-esteem. A child who feels good about himself is more willing to think, explore, try new things, and tackle challenging problems that are bound to come his way.
Remind her frequently of her strengths and how she has successfully coped with challenges. Ask her opinion on events and things happening within the family. Invite her to contribute.
Shift your focus to values other than success and money. Encourage positive traits you notice in your children, such as kindness, empathy, honesty, or generosity. Don’t cultivate the idea that money and power are the only routes to happiness.
Wealthy, successful people have busy schedules, but be sure to carve out some time for your child every day. Attend your child’s sports events, school functions, and extra-curricular activities whenever you can. If you can’t find a way to be there in person, call, text, or leave a note.
Show genuine interest and be generous with your praise. Acknowledge a job well done and don’t forget to say thank you. Be supportive and complimentary, even if your child isn’t an athletic star or a straight-A student.
Don’t compare your child to other children, including your child’s friends and siblings, or children of your friends or business associates. Always be kind and remember that children deserve respect. Avoid sarcasm and negativity and never bring up failures or harbor mistakes of the past.
Encourage your child to solve problems and think for himself. Provide support and guidance, but don’t step in unless your input is unavoidable.
4. Talk to Your Child About Substance Abuse
If you think your child is using drugs or alcohol, educate yourself about substance abuse and addiction before you sit down for a discussion. Do your research. Read books, talk to an addiction specialist or school counselor, or join a support group.
If you’re concerned that your child may be using a specific substance, learn about that substance. You don’t need to be an expert, but you risk losing all credibility if you are ill-informed.
Set aside a time for conversation in a quiet, neutral place where you aren’t likely to be distracted or disturbed. Choose another time if you think your child is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Tell your child you love her and want the best for her. Be direct and express your concerns, but don’t exaggerate. It okay to back up your words with hard data but don’t resort to threats or fear.
Explain the dangers of using drugs and alcohol, including a significantly higher risk of HIV/AIDS, accidents, legal issues, prison, and severe health problems. Remind your child that if he gets involved with drugs and alcohol, he may lose opportunities for a good education and promising career.
Listen to your child. Be brief and don’t lecture. Don’t make accusations, and don’t jump to conclusions about what’s going on with your child. Discuss possible solutions.
Be reasonable. Stay calm and try not to overreact. If you feel angry or if things are getting out of control, choose another time to talk, preferably within a day or two. The conversation won’t be productive if you or your child are too upset.
5. Be Willing to Seek Help
In the last few decades, we have finally come to understand that addiction is a chronic disease that changes the chemical makeup of the brain. Addiction can be managed, much like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
Don’t get trapped into thinking that your child’s substance abuse is a sign of weakness or moral failing, or that she can conquer the problem without professional help. If your child is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, she will need treatment to stop.
If you’re concerned about your child’s use of drugs or alcohol, don’t wait to address signs of trouble. The earlier kids start using alcohol and drugs, the higher the chance of serious problems down the road. Delaying treatment only provides more opportunities for catastrophes.
Studies show that at least 15 percent of adolescents who start drinking alcohol before their fourteenth birthday will develop a drinking problem down the road. The risk drops to about two percent for those that wait until they’re at least 21.
Substance abuse is always treatable, but the earlier your child gets help, the better the chances of a positive outcome. Talk to your family doctor, an addiction therapist, or another trusted expert that can help you determine if your child will benefit from drug and alcohol treatment or rehab.
Treatment depends on the severity of the addiction. Some kids may do fine with outpatient treatment, which will allow them to stay in school. Others may need residential rehab, but some treatment providers have education on-site, so kids don’t fall behind. You can’t rush recovery. It requires time, commitment, and patience.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse
As a parent, it’s essential that you know the signs of substance abuse and addiction, but don’t jump to conclusions if you notice one or two symptoms. Keep in mind that your child may be tired or not feeling well. Also, remember that most kids will experiment with drugs or alcohol at some point.
The following are guidelines of which you should be aware.
Physical Signs of Addiction
● Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
● Sniffing and runny nose (not associated with a cold or other illness)
● Weight loss or gain
● Changes in appetite; eating more or less than usual
● Looking pale, ill, or exhausted for an extended length of time
● Obvious intoxication or strange behavior
● Lack of personal hygiene, poor grooming, and self-care
● Body odor or unusual odor due to lack of personal hygiene
● Withdrawal symptoms when the substance isn’t available, such as trembling, sweats and chills, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, or seizures
● Wearing long sleeves, even in hot weather
● Possession of paraphernalia such as lighter fluid, cough medicine, pipes, rolling papers, small mirrors, razors, or butane lighters. Drug paraphernalia varies widely depending on the substance.
● Disrupted sleep, insomnia, or going days without sleeping
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
● Missing school or work, or chronic lateness
● Missing important appointments
● Legal problems
● Isolation, not spending time with family and friends
● Secretiveness, using substance alone or secretly
● Poor grades or significant changes in academic performances
● Complaints from teachers about issues at school
● Going out late at night
● Avoiding eye contact
● Locking bedroom doors
Emotional Signs of Addiction
● Loss of interest in activities typically found enjoyable. For instance, your child may turn down an invitation for a camping trip, or may not spend time with former, non-using friends.
● Acting silly or more talkative than usual
● Inability to cope with stressful situations
● Argumentative, obnoxious, or irritable
● Easily confused
● Offering excuses, justifications, or other explanations for drug-related behavior
● Denial; may be unaware a problem exists, or unwilling to admit to the extent of the problem and the possible consequences
● Blaming others for poor behavior
Psychological Signs of Addiction
● Unable to stop using drugs or alcohol, after making at least one serious try.
● Using substances despite negative consequences, such as health problems, frequent illness, trouble at school, or legal issues
● Turns to drugs or alcohol to cope with problems
● Becomes obsessed with the substance, spending a great deal of time acquiring or using drugs or alcohol
● Poor judgment or risk-taking, including theft, trading sex for drugs, or engaging in dangerous activities like violence or driving too fast.