This month’s Notes From Home is focused on teen substance abuse and how to prevent it. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the teens we work with are past the point of “prevention.” However, the solid and true principles discussed here most assuredly have the power to reduce or stop substance abuse.
We could share the gloomy national statistics on teenage substance abuse and how those that abuse substances are far more likely to develop a full blown addition. But those are just statistics. They rarely speak to us and cause us to change.
To start out, you must be visionary as a parent and imagine the kind of family life and children you want to have long before you have teens. What values do I want my children to have, etc. Then set the example. Nothing weakens parental authority like incongruence between our own standards and those we are trying to instill in our children. I know that from personal experience around driving safely.
I always tend to buy cars that want to go fast. These cars are just made up that way. (I blame it on my mom allowing my brother and I to buy an orange Trans Am as teenagers.) One of my justifying thoughts for my “adult driving” habits is that I’m more mature and have had years of experience driving. I’ve practiced going fast for 30 years now!
But it’s not a value of mine to go fast. It’s a bad habit. The value that I really want to instill in my children is to be law abiding citizens and to be cautious and careful in driving. Well, I’m not always congruent with that. When my kids were young they didn’t know to check my speedometer against the speed limits posted along the high way. They are now old enough to do so.
Every time I see my son backing out of our long driveway like a bat out of you-know-where, I have two emotions. One is anger that he could be so careless and the other is guilt that I have done the same thing and he has watched me.
In prevention, my first piece of advice to parents is that if you want your children to never take a drink, take a hit, or pop a pill, and thus never fall into the grips of substance abuse and addiction, raise the bar on yourself and determine to live your own life in a way that eliminates any twinge of hypocrisy. I know that’s asking a lot. But prevention is where the greatest opportunity exists.
I hope you’ll be inspired to act, by what you read here. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences, so write us back if you’d like to share.
To Your Family’s Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.