It is never too early to talk to your kids at an age appropriate level on the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs.

Waiting until a problem arises and “I’ll deal with it then” is often too late.

Parents often plan ahead for their children in regards to education, nutrition, health and even career. This same principle applies to shaping your child’s attitude and participation when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

Obviously there are no guarantees, but we believe that parents and carers that are informed, intentional and involved in their children’s lives are better preparing them to make wise decisions and set them up for greater success.

Parents ‘in the know’ are in a better position to protect and equip their children to make informed, wise choices - especially when it comes to important issues of health and wellbeing. You don’t have to be an expert, but by providing accurate information your children will trust that you only have their best interest in mind.

Children of all ages need adults, especially parents, actively engaged in their lives. Children thrive and are far less likely to engage in risky behaviour when they know they are valued and loved.

Some important factors of being involved in your child’s life include giving them responsibility, accountability, discipline and ensuring the lines of communication are open. Anywhere you can talk, listen and learn from one another.

Effective parenting takes planning! What kind of teenagers or young adults do you want your kids to be?

A child’s health and safety are never best left to chance. While it can seem the teenage years and accompanying issues are a long way off, ensuring our children safe and equipping them to keep themselves safe in the future requires a commitment now.

Be Informed

About Drugs

There are 3 main types of drugs.

  1. Depressants Drugs that slow down the central nervous system. Examples include opiates (e.g. heroin), alcohol, cannabis, sedatives (e.g. Valium), inhalants (e.g. petrol) and analgesics (pain killers).
  2. Stimulants Drugs that increase the body's state of arousal by increasing the activity of the brain. Examples include nicotine, caffeine, ecstasy, amphetamines (such as speed or Ice), and cocaine.
  3. Hallucinogens Drugs that alter perception of reality and can cause hallucinations. Examples include LSD, ecstasy and high doses of cannabis.

Some drugs may have properties of more than one of the above categories. For example cannabis has depressive, hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties.
Although the media focuses on illicit drugs, the first mind-altering (psychoactive) drug used by children is often a commonly available legal drug such as alcohol or an inhaled household substance.

Why do young people use drugs?
Drugs offer immediate ‘benefits’ – otherwise people wouldn’t take them. These benefits are both real and perceived, legal and illegal drugs.
Young people use drugs to relax, have fun, be part of a group, out of curiosity or to escape physical or psychological pain. However any perceived or real ‘benefits’ are short lived and can result in serious or life threatening, immediate and long term harms.

Analgesics(Pain Killers)

Common Names: Perks, Cody

Why:Relieves physical pain, aids recovery. Produces a pleasant “high”.

Status:Prescription and over-the- counter

Risks:Range of physical (e.g. liver damage) and cognitive (e.g. confusion) problems that can be permanent and/or fatal. Can be addictive.

Amphetamines

Common Names: Crystal Methamphetamine, ICE, Speed, Meth, Crystal Meth, Crystal, Glass

Why:Increased sense of happiness, confidence and energy.

Status:Some prescribed (e.g. for ADHD), others illegal (e.g. ‘speed’ and ‘ice’)

Risks:Immediate risk of physical (e.g. stroke), emotional (e.g. mood swings) and cognitive (e.g. paranoia) harms. Range of serious and/or life threatening issues including organ damage, stroke, heart failure and ‘amphetamine psychosis’ with prolonged use.

Cannabis

Common Names: Marijuana, Pot, Weed, Grass, Hash, Green, Mary Jane

Why:Feelings of relaxation, confidence and calm. Enhancing the senses.

Status:Possession and supply laws vary state by state and country

Risks:The intoxicant chemical compound is known as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC damages many parts of the body, including the brain, and remains in the body for weeks. Range of physical, cognitive, emotional and social impacts.

Cocaine

Common Names: Coke, C, Snow, Charlie

Why:Reduces inhibitions, increases feelings of well-being

Status:Illegal

Risks:Includes impaired coordination, decision-making and vision, increased depression and aggression, and can cause coma and death

Ecstasy

Common Names: E, Eckies, Molly

Why:Exhilarating feelings of warmth and confidence, positive mood, greater sense of intimacy, hallucinogenic effects

Status:Illegal

Risks:Can cause severe dehydration resulting in organ shut down and death. Long term use can lead to memory and cognition problems and depression

Inhalants

Common Names: Chroming, Huffing, Sniffing

Why:Stimulating, euphoria, decreased inhibitions

Status:Legal (usually household or office items e.g. hairspray, glue, petrol)

Risks: Range of physical (brain damage, suffocation), cognitive (confusion) and psychological (depression) problems that can be permanent and/or fatal.

Opiates (Heroin)

Common Names: Heroin, H, Smack

Why:Euphoria, feelings of relaxation, intense pleasure and pain relief.

Status:Usage, possession and supply laws vary.

Risks:Nausea and vomiting. Respiratory failure and death. Digestive, respiratory and fertility issues with prolonged use.

Tobacco

Common Names: Cigarette, Ciggies, Smoke, Rollies

Why:Initial stimulating effect from nicotine leads to addiction. Nicotine relaxes and eases the agitation from withdrawal after addiction is established.

Status:Legal with age supply restrictions

Risks:Highly addictive. Includes lung, throat and mouth cancers

Alcohol

Why:Increased sense of relaxation and confidence, decreased inhibitions. Social pressures.

Status:Legal with age restrictions.

Risks:Impairs physical, emotional and cognitive responses, increasing risky behaviour and injuries. In high doses can cause coma and death. Long term use results in a range of serious or life-threatening physical and mental health issues including organ damage, brain damage, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and cancer.

About Alcohol

Alcohol has been an accepted ‘rite of passage’ and the legal drinking age varies in different countries (e.g. Australia it is 18 and the USA it is 21). Research shows us that the adolescent brain is still developing and is particularly sensitive to alcohol. The human brain matures from the back to the front until about age 24. During adolescence, the brain undergoes extensive development and is particularly sensitive to damage from alcohol and drug use.

The areas of the brain that undergo dramatic changes during adolescence are associated with motivation, impulse control, memory, emotions and addictive behaviours. The greatest development during this time occurs in the frontal cortex. This part of the brain also influences personality expression, decision making and moderating social behaviour.

Mix all this with alcohol and it’s a disaster waiting to happen! Without the frontal cortex in full operation, they often lack the capacity to stop and think through the consequences.

It’s as if, while the other areas of the teen brain are ready to ‘play ball’, the Prefrontal Cortex is not quite ready to play referee.

Responding to the Issue of Alcohol Use - A few preventative guidelines:

  • Discuss alcohol related harms with your child. Remember to discuss the perceived benefits versus the high costs including damage to the teen brain.
  • Be aware of the legal drinking age of your country. Set the age when you will permit your child to use alcohol.
  • Maybe agree on a reward if the child does not use alcohol until that age (e.g. contribution to a car) and a realistic consequence if they do (e.g. reduced allowance).
  • Do not over-react if your child breaches your family rules and stick to your agreed consequences.
  • The longer you can delay your child’s first taste of alcohol the less likely they will develop alcohol dependency, mental health issues and injuries as a result of intoxication.

Be Involved

Know & Enjoy your Child

We all get stuck in “maintenance mode” trying to just deal with the present causing us to not stay up to date with what’s happening in the lives of our children and loved ones. How well do you know your kids? Their likes, their dislikes, friends, favourite sports, music, what energises them or what demotivates them.

Encourage Accountability

Accountability means being responsible and answerable for your actions. Helping our children take responsibility for their actions now helps them understand and work through the consequences of their actions.

Consequential Learning
There are natural consequences (outcomes) for all our choices and actions. commonly referred to as cause-and-effect physics. Over time we learn that if we act in certain ways we can expect certain results. Consequential Learning provides a greater understanding of the natural consequences of their behaviour and children learn valuable lessons without parents needing to add any more.

Guided Learning
In addition to our children experiencing natural consequences, as parents we want to encourage (reinforce) responsible behavior and discourage irresponsible behavior.

Let Go

One of the ways we allow our children to experience and learn through success and failure is to hand over responsibilities gradually to our children. For example managing their own money, time distribution and friendship choices.

Communicate

Developing communication skills and creating opportunities for communication to happen, creates conditions for children to develop strong feelings of attachment to their family.

Healthy family communication is an important protective factor in steering adolescents away from the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs. Teens who feel attached to their families are more likely to internalise positive values that reduce the risk of alcohol and drug-use problems.

Be There

If parents have created an environment where healthy communication can happen, teens are much more likely to talk about important issues at home.
As a parent you can create opportunities for conversations, some avenues to do this are; around the meal time, driving in the car, at bed time. It is important to not share or talk about personal issues in front of your child’s friends/peers as it can lead to internalization and breakdown of communication.

Conversation Starters

Develop strong support networks

Every person in our society needs a network of individuals to talk to, problem solve with or to simply relax.
Parents who contribute to building positive social networks take an important step toward reducing the risks of adolescents developing problems with drug use. It is important that you allow room for your child to seek quality advice and understanding from others within your family or social network.

Be Intentional

Model healthy choices

All children need to know they are loved – at all times, in all circumstances.

Love that continues to exist through (inevitable) misunderstanding, disappointment and failure is called unconditional love. Conversely, love that comes with ‘strings attached’ is known as, conditional love. This kind of love when certain conditions are met, for instance certain behavioural standards. It is never guaranteed and can be withdrawn at any time.

As parents, we won’t always feel thrilled by our children’s behaviour. We may not even be thrilled at times to be their parents. However, our kids need to know that whether they have been good or bad, destructive or constructive, they have parents who are committed to loving them.

Be intentional about your emotional health

Parents with effective coping habits provide healthy role models for their children. Children with practical coping skills have less risk of developing drug or alcohol problems in adolescence.

How can parents model a healthy emotional life?
1. Master Your Mind- Thoughts are powerful and determine how you feel about and treat your partner, your children and especially yourself. Thoughts can inspire hope – or take it away. It can be tough but if you learn to master your thought life you’re providing a good role model to your children on how to be ‘happy’ irrespective of people and circumstances.
2. Refuel- The demands of parenting can seem endless and often overwhelming. As parents, we are constantly giving out of our emotional tank to our children. If the tank is not refuelled, we are soon running on empty. When the tank is low, it’s not just you who suffer – so does your relationships and your children. Find and do things that energise you are vital for yourself, your partner and your children. e.g. reading, fishing, exercise.

Parenting Styles

So what's your "parenting style?"
- The PERMISSIVE style of parenting. Have few or no rules and discipline: “Anything goes”
- The AUTHORITARIAN style of parenting. Set rules that are rigid and non-negotiable and enforce with harsh punishment
- The EXECUTIVE style of parenting. (Authoritative) Set clear, age-appropriate rules and consequences

Parenting that is balanced with love and clear boundaries provides a stable environment for your children, and they will be less likely to make unwise choices when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

Create traditions that build strong bonds

Healthy rituals, traditions and routines (where multiple family members participate) results in increased satisfaction with family life by adolescents. Healthy family routines are also shown to have a positive influence on the overall health of children, including their mental wellbeing.

Kids should be able to talk to you about anything and everything. The tone of your voice and your response will set you up for great conversations on a variety of issues. Your aim is for them to come to their own conclusions, especially when it comes to alcohol and drugs.

By being informed, intentional and involved with your parenting, you are setting your children up to be safe now and the future.

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