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Keeping Your Child Off Drugs

Mar 13, 2008
Protecting a child from harm and enabling him with the confidence and decision-making abilities required for adulthood is something most parents hope for. But while parents are the single most influencing factor in a child's life, what can they do to protect their children from the influence drugs have in today's thrill seeking society?

Teach by Example

What parents say and how they act goes a long way to enabling a child to make the right decisions as he grows older. But a child can be subject to confusing signals from his parents, especially when rules laid down in the home are disobeyed by others, or when conflicting behavior causes the child to doubt what he has been told.

For example, a child who is told that alcohol is bad for his health, and who then witnesses his parent drink too much at a family barbeque, will be confused. Similarly, a child who is told smoking will kill him, and that he should never start--like his parents did--will not understand when he sees his parents' friends being allowed to smoke in the house.

And there are other, more subtle conflicting signals that a child may pick up on, such as being asked to fetch a beer from the refrigerator, or watching an adult open a wine bottle in order to cope with an unhappy or tense situation.

But when drugs are involved, a whole new set of problems present themselves.

When a parent uses illegal drugs, not only does he compromise his child's safety, but he also destroys the child's ability to form consistent moral codes. The opposing conflict of right and wrong becomes grayed, and the child will try to follow the example set by his parents.

Parents that think they can hide drug use from their children are self-delusional, and the day their children discover the secret, all credibility and parental authority will be lost. After all, if the parents do not respect the law, then why should the children?

Values are handed down through generations of families by the manner in which they are displayed and lived by, but there are other things that can be done to lessen the controlling influence that drugs might have.

Set Boundaries

By setting clear boundaries of expectation and enforcing them in a consistent manner, parents can ensure their children do not receive mixed messages. Confidence in decision-making is enhanced, if the children feel they are behaving in a manner that is safe within these boundaries.

The consequences of breaching your boundaries must be explained in advance, i.e., what your child can expect to happen as punishment. Accordingly, punishment must be appropriate, and should be implemented without exception.

When you begin to talk about drugs, don't assume your child will know where you stand; it must be made clear but in a non-aggressive manner. Don't be ambiguous, or the child may be tempted to stray.

Explain that you forbid him to use drugs (and perhaps even other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco), because you love him and always will. Hold your child, and back up your wishes with an emotional statement about how it would break your heart. Research has shown that a child will base his future decisions about whether to use drugs on what his parents would think if they found out.


As your child grows up, it can become harder to find suitable opportunities to discuss issues about drugs. In an increasingly polarized culture, it is important to talk to your child from an early age and at regular intervals, to keep communication from stagnating.

Family meetings are an excellent way of ensuring communication lines are kept open, provided they are balanced and honest. A weekly meeting in which all members of the family can discuss their personal triumphs and problems, without fear of prejudice or punishment, is a valuable tool in helping your child grow secure within your moral code. Issues about drugs can be brought up at these meetings without your child feeling singled out or under pressure, and it will help him feel more involved as he develops into an adult.

Get Involved

There are many advantages to getting involved with your child's life. Being active shows him you enjoy his company, and keeps him embraced in the family spirit. It also allows you to set a positive example, and ensures you remain close to your child.

If you suffer from stress, it is a great way of helping to relieve it, but perhaps more importantly, it provides an opportunity for you to strengthen your bond, and build a solid foundation of trust and respect away from the influence of drugs.

Show Your Child You Care

A child who decides not to use drugs often makes this decision because he has developed strong convictions against their use. This may be because of the values you instilled as he grew up, but unfortunately in some cases, it is because the child witnessed the effects drugs have had on people close to him.

You can make your family's values clear early on by explaining why you chose a particular course of action, and how that choice is reflected in your values. By showing your child, and not just telling him, that you care about the choices he makes, particularly about drugs and other substances, you are encouraging him to make good decisions now, and in later life.

Always let your child know how happy you are that he respects your boundaries. Praise him when he deserves it, but punish accordingly when it is deserved. Emphasize the things your child does correctly, instead of focusing on the mistakes he makes.

When parents are quicker to praise than to criticize, children learn to feel good about themselves, and they soon develop the self-confidence required to trust their own judgment. In the end, that is what every parent wants.
About the Author
Colin Galbraith writes articles on drug rehab in California. For more information on the Narconon program, and the New Life Detoxification program, visit www.drugrehab.net. If you plan to reproduce this article, please include the link above.
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