FAMILY DINNERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While it’s true that children often idolize sports heroes and celebrities, they also idolize YOU. As a parent or caregiver, you have the power to help shape their attitudes about drugs. One way to do that is by talking to them regularly about what is going on in their lives. Kids who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who do not.
Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean lecturing. In fact, there are many things you can do (or may already do!) to provide the type of environment that may keep your child from experimenting with drugs or alcohol. One is to spend more time with your child. A national survey about the importance of family dinners revealed that 18 percent of teens said they would like to spend more time with their parents
Family dinners are an excellent way to spend time with your child. And make no mistake—those family dinners matter. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are almost four times as likely to have used tobacco, more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, and two and-a-half times as likely to have used marijuana. Imagine! Simply spending time with your children may make them less likely to try drugs or alcohol.
Family dinners don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Think of simple, inexpensive ways to make the meal fun, such as eating a picnic meal in the back yard, having a contest to see who can create the best pizza, or setting up a burger bar with outrageous toppings. Enjoy the process, and spend the time together talking with your children about their day.
Simply being there for your child—day or night—is also helpful. A child who feels you are available will be more likely to come to you with questions about drugs, or challenges with peer pressure or other situations that make your child feel uncomfortable. It is especially important to be there for your child during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce, because the risk of drug use increases greatly during these times. As children advance from elementary school to middle school, for example, they face new social situations. They will be exposed to cigarettes and alcohol—if they haven’t been already— and friends may encourage them to try new things. Later, as they go from middle school to high school, they will face a larger variety of substances and have more of a desire to fit in or seem cool to their classmates.
Additionally, teens who attend religious services four or more times a month are less likely to have used tobacco (11 percent vs. 3 percent), consumed alcohol (27 percent vs. 13 percent), or used marijuana (15 percent vs. 5 percent) than those who attend such services less frequently or not at all.
Remember, preventing the first use prevents abuse, and preventing abuse prevents addiction. You can change your child’s future.