With the use of drugs as widespread as it is today, kids are having to make important decisions at an early age. By the time they complete elementary school most have to make a yes or no decision about marijuana. As they move into their teens, the need to be accepted by others of the same age. This can make it very difficult for a child to refuse drugs and save face.
Can you spot a kid who's getting into drugs?
One of the most obvious signs of a kid who's getting into drugs may be a change in their behavior and appearance. Their school grades may suddenly start to drop. They may seem to lose interest in the way they look. They may also lose interest in activities like sports that used to be important. The times they go to bed and wake up can change markedly. They can withdraw from family and friends. They might spend a lot of time with new friends whom they don't want their parents to meet. They can be very anxious, irritable and suspicious.
However, its important to realize that adolescence is a very difficult time and that all these changes may not be due to drug use. They may simply be a part of growing up. Its up to you to determine the reasons for changes in behavior. Kids who abuse drugs are wasting themselves. Their grades suffer because they cant study or pay attention in the classroom. Their emotional and physical development can be damaged at a very critical period in their young lives. Drugs like marijuana and alcohol are often referred to as gateway or stepping stone drugs, which means their abuse can potentially lead users into other drugs.
Is there hope?
Yes. There is evidence that some of today's teenagers are wising up to the problems of drug abuse as a result of education. For example, the number of high school seniors who believe there are great risks in regular marijuana use has increased significantly in the past five years. This makes it a little easier for them to say no to drugs because there is a decrease in peer pressure. Despite the fact that regular marijuana use is decreasing, we still face an uphill battle with the increasing abuse of other drugs. The best people to wage that battle are parents.
What can a parent do?
The first thing a parent can do in the fight to have a drug-free child is learn about the kind of drugs kids abuse. This will put you in a good position to have frank, open discussions with your children to impress upon them that they are being sold a bill of goods by the drug culture. That they are being led to believe that drugs are cool when in fact they represent a tremendous health hazard. Armed with the proper information, you can give your kids the help they need to say no to drugs.
Its important for you to encourage your children to get involved in activities that can give them a natural high. Sports, recreational, religious and volunteer activities can be real substitutes for drugs. Its important for both you and your children to discuss rules of behavior. That you set clear and distinct limits that they understand.
Its also crucial that you participate. Form groups with other concerned parents. Join your P.T.A. Invite drug counselors to meetings. Talk with school superintendents, principals, coaches, church people, physicians, and local politicians to make sure that everyone is not aware of the drug problems but that they are responsive to them. If we can stop drug abuse at the experimental stages, well be getting at the problem before it gets a grip on our kids.