by Breanna Boland, Executive Director (ACPP II), Casa Grande Alliance
Every year, we spend time thinking about and planning a New Year’s resolution that will have a profound effect on our lives. Even though New Year’s resolutions are made with the best of intentions, many times, we struggle with follow through and fall short of our goals. What if this year we turn the tide, and find a resolution that is not only doable, but can have a positive impact in the life of someone else, such as your child? Strengthening relationships, having frequent conversations about drugs and alcohol and having clear no-use policies are just a few ways to have an impact on a child that can last a lifetime. Here is what the data and research tells us about the role of a parent or caring adult in preventing teen substance abuse.
- Strengthening relationships – Teens who have good relationships with their parents, or a trusted adult, are two times less likely to use alcohol and three to four times less likely to use marijuana. One way to nourish these relationships is by having family dinners five to seven times a week, whether at home or at a restaurant. It is not about the food being eaten, but about the conversation and adult-child engagement that takes place at a dinner table.
- Have conversations about drugs and alcohol – Talk early and talk often about the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol use. Teens whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol are 50 percent less likely to use drugs, yet approximately three out of five Pinal County teens report never having these conversations. Not only do these need to happen often, but they need to happen sooner, as well. The average age of first use among Pinal County youth is approximately 13 years old. A common misperception is once children become teenagers they don’t listen to us anymore and we don’t hold any influence over their decision to use drugs and alcohol, and that influence transitions to their peers. Parents are actually the greatest influence on a child’s decision to use drugs or not! This means we need to have these conversations and have them frequently. It could be the determining factor of whether or not a youth ever tries a drug.
- Set clear rules and consequences. Set and enforce a “zero tolerance” policy, which clearly states that there is to be no underage drinking or drug use in your home. Enforce these rules with consistency and appropriate consequences. One of the top reasons why teens report not wanting to use alcohol or drugs is because they don’t want to disappoint a parent or another caring adult in their life. Therefore, it is important to remember, you matter!
Including these three key elements into your New Year’s resolutions will not only strengthen the relationships within your family, but can also help prevent your child from ever using drugs and alcohol. Ask yourself if you are ready to make a New Year’s resolution that can last a lifetime. If so, let’s ring in the New Year with resolutions that matter and that have a positive impact on our future and the health and safety of our children.
If you would like more information on substances of abuse, substance abuse prevention or how to talk with your child about drugs and alcohol, go to CasaGrandeAlliance.org or call 520-836-5022.