Is your family a permissive family? Do you see teen drug abuse as a phase that kids go through and will likely not experience any negative consequences from the drug use? Is underage drinking allowed in your home? Does your child know they can get away with using drugs because it will not be noticed by an inattentive parent?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be at risk for substance abuse. Studies show that children that grow up in families where drug use is accepted and tolerated are more likely to abuse drugs than children growing up in families where drug use is discouraged and absolutely not tolerated within the home.
Despite what is commonly advertised in the media, parental relationships and expectations of the behavior of their children play a greater role in curtailing teen drug use, than the simple mantra to “just say no” to peer pressure. The teen with a loving, supportive, informed, and engaged parent is much less likely to give in to peer pressure to abuse drugs.
The number one need of children, and particularly adolescents is to belong to a group. Adolescence is typically a time in a child’s life when the peer group takes higher precedence in the child’s social realm, and they begin to seek and form relationships outside of the home. Having positive peers in the school, and joining productive groups such as honor clubs, civic organizations, band, or drama clubs, etc.; can serve to meet that need for belonging.
I experienced that while part of the marching band in high school. We used to practice out on the field next to the football team, and it was a similar feeling of being part of something larger than ourselves, as we stepped and marched in time with the rhythm.
When a child grows up in an environment where his/her actions are ignored by an unengaged, neglectful, and inattentive parent, then this child will likely seek to bond with peers with equally inattentive, permissive, and uninvolved parents; and unfortunately, these children will be more likely to engage or become involved in unrewarding activities, like substance abuse, teen pregnancy, etc.
Teens with distracted parents or parents that are too pre-occupied with their own issues are at increased risk simply because the necessary layer of parental oversight and protection is missing. This leaves the child vulnerable to the attention and engagement of other people that may not necessarily have the best intentions for the child.
For this reason, I encourage parents to remain engaged in their child’s life, perhaps even to the point of annoyance. Talk to them. Know who their friends are. Know the parents of your child’s friends. Know their teachers, the coaches, and all the adults involved in any extracurricular or after school programs.
People with ill intentions seek after a vulnerable, neglected child. They know these are the kids that are looking for recognition, attention, and affection from others, because they are not getting it at home. This makes them vulnerable. They notice the child who walks home alone, is by themselves a lot, and has few friends. These are children vulnerable to pedophiles, but also are easily influenced by peer pressure, that may include drug abuse and addiction, because there is nothing positive in their lives pulling them in the opposite direction.
If you are a parent that wants to have a positive impact or influence in your child’s or another child’s life, then help them discover things about themselves that are beautiful, praise-worthy, and unique. Help them to appreciate their worth and realize that they can share their gifts and talents with the world. Help instill in them the knowledge that they are valuable and they have something worth living for.