By Carrie Kubacki, Interim Family Living Educator, Langlade County UW-Extension
As we get closer to National Alcohol and Drug Awareness Facts Week (January 22-28, 2018), it is important to review the role that families have in preventing substance use and abuse. Parents and caregivers are continually looking for the best ways to raise happy and healthy children, and research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has demonstrated the positive effect that parents and caregivers have in preventing substance use. Below is a brief discussion of four evidence-based strategies shown to help prevent the start of drug use among youth.
1.) Communication. Good communication between parents/caregivers and children is the foundation of strong family relationships. With these skills caregivers are better able to identify problems early, support positive behavior and maintain openness in communication as children grow and develop. Using encouragement rather than negatives will help to promote confidence of self in youth and reduce conflict. Further, negotiating solutions to problems together with youth will help to encourage cooperation, responsibility and respect. It is important to choose times to speak with children about serious topics when everyone is feeling calm and able to rationally problem solve.
2.) Setting Limits. When parents and caregivers set limits with children, it helps to teach self-control and responsibility, show love and support and provide safe boundaries. It also helps youth learn the importance of following rules. When setting rules, be sure to make the rules clear, simple and specific and to have youth demonstrate understanding of the rules and any consequences that will occur if the rules are not followed. Effective consequences must be manageable and under control of the adults and should be enforced immediately for the greatest impact.
3.) Supervision. As children age and begin spending more time with friends and away from home, supervision is necessary in avoiding problems, promoting safety and staying involved. There are four main rules of supervision for parents and caregivers. First, set clear, non-negotiable rules about your child’s behavior. Second, regularly communicate with your child, their friends and other parents and adults. Third, be sure to check up on your child—whether it is making a phone call to them or meeting your child’s friends or their parents. Fourth, be consistent in your limits, rules, check-ins and consequences.
4.) Know your Child’s Friends. Childhood is a period of growth and change, and youth can sometimes feel the need to please, impress and “fit in.” With this comes the danger of being open to peer pressure. Parents and caregivers can help their children during these times and influence their decision-making by knowing who their child’s friends and their families are and being sure to communicate openly with all of them about expectations. Remember that it is your responsibility as a parent and caregiver to share your values, rules, consequences and any information about drug use, sex and other serious topics that our children need to know as they age.
By developing open, honest and supportive relationships with children, parents and caregivers can help to prevent youth substance use and abuse. Taking the time to utilize the four strategies above can help to keep youth happy, healthy and safe. For more information about parenting, family relationships and youth, please contact the Langlade County UW-Extension Office at (715) 627-6236.