Children of parents who talk to them about drugs are 50% less likely to use.
Parents – understand the risks to your children and learn simple, effective strategies to act….
KNOW! – A Monthly Newsletter For Parents
Know! is a collaborative effort of Drug Free Action Alliance and The United Way of Central Ohio. Know! is proud to report a continuously growing number of parents, prevention agencies, community leaders, coalitions, businesses and educators who share the goal of preventing and reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Know! offers parents of children ages 11-13 monthly tips and the latest research to accomplish the following:
- Increase parental awareness that their children are at risk.
- Reinforce parents with the knowledge that their actions make a difference.
- Enhance and increase communication between parents and their children about substance use.
- Empower parents with simple, effective parenting strategies proven to prevent substance use.
Parents can trust the information they receive from Know! because it is coming from a credible source of substance abuse prevention information.
Comprehensive resource for parents and grandparents for preventing drug use at every age.
Risks associated with using alcohol during the teen years
Monitoring/Securing Your Medications
Protect Your Kids: Three Ways to Safeguard Your Home
Parents’ Questions and Professionals’ Answers
In March 2012, Drug Safe Worthington sponsored its inaugural event. Dr. Galen Morgan Cooper presented a play called A Turmoil Called Home focused on her daughter’s addiction. Participants were invited to write down questions as part of the discussion after the show and the next dayWhat follows are those questions, with answers compiled by a group of prevention and treatment providers. The questions and answers are categorized into four sections, each emphasizing a different aspect of what parents can do to intervene and influence a child’s decisions regarding the use of drugs or alcohol.
DISCLAIMER: Drug Safe Worthington, and its partners, affiliates, and co-sponsors, does not endorse any treatment center, treatment model or service provider. Any views, advice, or opinions presented in Drug Safe Worthington-sponsored conferences, events or presentations verbally or in writing do not necessarily represent those of Drug Safe Worthington. The information presented is not a substitute for consultation with an appropriate professional. Drug Safe Worthington is not responsible for the accuracy of information presented by speakers during sponsored activities, and is not liable for problems arising from following advice given by speakers or through their handouts or promotional materials.
BEFORE THERE IS A PROBLEM…
1. Too much parenting? Too little? What are the common denominators? Should we let [children] experiment a little? Then they’ll know what not to do if they survive.
The most effective parenting is “attentive” parenting. There is much research that shows that youth who believe their parents pay attention to their lives are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. “Too little parenting” means that children believe they can engage in inappropriate behavior and that their parents will not hold them accountable. “Too much parenting” means that parents try to control their kids so much that the kids don’t have the opportunity to learn how to make their own decisions, or make developmentally-appropriate mistakes they can use as learning opportunities. “Attentive” parenting means that parents stay aware of what their kids are doing, like knowing where they go for entertainment, and who they hang out with. Parents who do this help their kids develop healthy values. “Attentive” parents know that children should not be judged on any one incident but on their children’s overall conduct.
No, you should not “let them experiment a little.” That will give your kids a message that inappropriate behavior is OK as long as they can get away with it. Your next sentence, “Then they’ll know what not to do if they survive” suggests that the kids could engage in risks that no adult should encourage in a child. We wouldn’t want to let our children “experiment a little” with anything else that was potentially deadly in the hopes that they’d learn a lesson if they survived. There are clear risks to underage drinking in a developing teen brain. Research has clearly identified harmful consequences, like stunting a child’s ability to reason, developing intellectual problems, and even death.
An “attentive” parent will let their kids know – from an early age – what are the parent’s expectations around risky behavior. Children of an attentive parent will learn lessons about all kinds of risky behavior like drug or alcohol use, as well as all those other behaviors that kids think are a sign of adulthood (e.g., sex, staying up late, eating junk food, using profanity). An attentive parent lets a child know through conduct and through words that the parent is available to talk with the child about touchy subjects. Still, while parents can help a child develop independence, parents should remain attentive to what is going on with a child. You should know your children’s passwords and check on their internet histories. Doing that can help you be attentive, also.
2. What can be done to show kids and adults the potential problem? Doesn’t it actually start with alcohol?
Yes, it often starts with alcohol, because alcohol is one of society’s most available, and socially acceptable drugs. We are really concerned about all drugs that can change a person’s mood. Excellent information about teens’ attitudes about drugs and alcohol can be found from Monitoring the Future, which conducts an annual survey of teens. Check out www.monitoringthefuture.org.
Recent research shows that, in the brain, drug use can mimic a chemical that the brain naturally produces called dopamine. Dopamine produces a “feel good” response. The brain wants to repeat this experience. Repeated drug misuse can disrupt the natural production of dopamine, and the brain responds by craving drugs. This is one of the things which eventually can lead to addiction. The human brain doesn’t stop developing until around 25 years old, andteenagers who misuse drugs, alcohol, or prescription pills can interfere with their brain’s growth and development. More information about this can be found through the US Department of Health & Human Services website at http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familylife/tech_assistance/etraining/adolescent_brain/Development/prefrontal_cortex/.
As a community we would like to change how we view drugs and alcohol. If we can change a culture that is seen as supporting teen drug use, we can affect the choices that teens will make. Changes in culture have led to the increased use of seat belts, and the decrease in smoking. In the same way, teenagers can be influenced by a community culture that does not support the use of drugs and alcohol in the teen years.
The best way to get the word out about the potential problem is to present to the community, as often as possible, evidence-based, non-exaggerated information. Since there is no safe level of drug or alcohol use for teens, the message must be repeated in the home, school, and larger community. More information, resources and guidelines can be found, locally, from the Drug Free Action Alliance. www.drugfreeactoinaalliance.org; (614) 540-9985.
WHEN YOU SUSPECT THERE IS A PROBLEM…
3. What should or can a parent do when they start noticing their kids building walls?
First of all, there might not be a need to panic. All children develop their own personalities and a sense of independence that can look like they’re “building walls.” It’s OK for kids to develop autonomy, and even have some secrets, as long as they’re not hurting themselves by keeping those secrets.
However, if a child is trying to avoid natural consequences by “walling-off” concerned others, like parents or friends, then a parent’s best response is two-fold. First, let the child know you are concerned about his or her behavior and that you are available if the child wants to talk. Don’t be surprised if the child rejects your offer; that is all part of a teenagers inflated sense of ability. But by letting a child know you recognize risky behavior, and that you are concerned, you plant a seed, letting the child know that you’re available. The child may remember that when he or she really needs someone to talk to.
Secondly, remain vigilant. Keep an eye out for what your children get involved with, who they are involved with, and where they go. If your children refuse to tell you things that you have a right to know, such as where they plan to go and with whom, then do not let them follow through with the plans they have made. For sure, a child who wants to build walls will resent you if you try to break down those walls. Your responsibility as a parent matters more than a child’s desire to pursue dangerous things. Continue to express your love for the child, and remember that setting rules and expectations is an expression of love. Yes, things might be tense around your house for a while, but, in the long run, that tension will be less dramatic than the energy that must be spent to resolve a crisis, or to treat an addiction.
This is the time to keep talking and keep trying no matter what. Being a parent is like being a counselor, teacher, and coach all wrapped up in one, and sometimes even a private detective. We need to keep trying to get information out of our teens, by asking more and listening more, and lecturing less. Most teens want to please their parents and offering love and support develops active communication and a chance at preventing addiction early – the earlier the better with teens. While it is very important to keep firm rules and enforce them, parents should always be nurturing and supportive in order to keep getting more information and a better chance at helping “nip the problem in the bud”. A positive, open, and supportive approach is more likely to get these results even when a child is “walling up” or not communicating.
Parents should also watch for “red flags,” such as talk of hopelessness, helplessness, death, sadness or depression, which can sometimes show as irritability or anger, or any dramatic change in the child. If a child seems to lose interest in things, is cranky and cannot get out of that mood for a long time, or talks about suicide, then it is the time to get help from a professional. Look in the phone book, an online resource directory, or contact a school counselor to get a referral.
4. How do parents balance tough love with protecting their children?
Ironically, tough love can help “protect” your children. Tough love means allowing someone to experience the natural consequences of his or her behavior. Tough love means allowing someone who has gotten themselves in trouble to face the consequences of breaking the law, not completing school assignments, or breaking the house rules. As a parent, the results of tough love can be painful to watch; what parents want to see their own child suffer hardships caused by the child’s own making? But allowing children to endure the consequences of their own behavior can help them develop awareness that they could control those consequences. Allowing a child to experience the natural consequences of behavior does require some supervision by a parent. You don’t want to allow your child to get in danger – such as if your child owes money to someone dangerous. In that case, do what you must to protect your child’s life or safety but on the condition that your child will make restitution to you for your efforts and will not get in that kind of trouble again.
One of the worst things a parent can do is to take away the natural consequences of a youth’s inappropriate behavior. Examples of this can include paying fines for a child’s misdeeds rather than having the child pay them; threatening legal action to get a school or someone else to back down from imposing a natural consequence; or covering up for a child’s inappropriate behavior. Doing these kinds of things only keeps a child from learning valuable lessons that can motivate the child to change for the better.
On the other hand, if you make natural consequences worse, that is called “exaggeration,” and it does nothing to change a youth’s behavior in the long run. Exaggeration includes overreacting to a minor problem, resorting to name calling or insulting a child for his or her behavior, contacting neighbors or employers to express anger about a child, or imposing harsh restrictions without an endpoint. Exaggerating consequences takes a youth’s focus away from the youth’s behavior and onto your efforts to make things worse. The youth learns nothing from the experience and considers you an enemy.
The challenge is to keep both the “tough” and the “love.” We don’t want an endless cycle of arguing and fighting, which will push a teen farther away. Instead, express loving concern and that you will address the issue together, focusing on positive solutions. However, it’s hard to keep lines of communication open when angry, but it is up to the parents to manage their anger and listen to what is going on the child’s life.
5. What should parents do when they encounter a teen who calls you a “useless bitch”?
As a parent, you need to manage your anger when faced with a caustic name. It may be wisest to not respond immediately. Take a few moments to walk away, count backward from ten, let yourself regain your composure. Then, use active listening skills to ask questions. Stay quiet and listen. Lectures or anger will result in more fighting. Lower the temperature by expressing love and concern and getting the information you need about what is going on with the child. Children need to feel listened to. Use phrases like “it sounds like you are upset; tell me more.” Together you can determine the problem and develop a plan of action.
It’s important to know if this is an unusual or typical behavior for the child. If this is ongoing series of fights, then professional help is needed. If a child has not had consistent rules, expect that there will be an angry response when parents begin to enforce appropriate limits.
Gently and consistently push back against the child’s behavior. Set house rules, and require all children to follow them. Limit the child’s freedom by setting curfews and grounding the child for disrespect, and not giving money; but – and this is critical – make sure the child knows how to earn back your trust and the privileges. All of this is a way to demonstrate your concern, even if you get no credit from a quarrelsome child. If your child ever says he or she hates you, then respond by saying that you have enough love for the both of you. Your child won’t like to hear that in the heat of an argument, but he or she will remember that you showed them that kind of unconditional love and commitment for working out the issue, whether big or small.
Something more to consider: in this kind of situation, you would be wise to examine the child’s past to see if something important might have happened that led to the child becoming despondent and so is reacting in this way. Without your knowledge, was your child harmed? molested? traumatized? bullied or teased? If you determine that something happened, then do what you can to help your child resolve the issue. There will be lingering behavioral echoes for some time to come, but at least you will have begun a healing process for your child.
6. I have a 12 year old son who thinks selling weed is cool. I need to know what can I do to scare him straight.
Research has shown that dramatic efforts like “scaring someone straight” only have short-term effectiveness. Unless there is some appropriate follow-up, a person who learns a lesson from an extreme experience will forget the lesson as soon as the sting of the experience wears off. The best way to handle this issue has three parts:
First, children often try out expressing themselves by deliberately pushing parents’ buttons. Sometimes they will do this for no other reason than just to see if they can upset their parents. Most kids try to do this. It’s a part of what a teen does develop a personality that they think is separate from their parents’ personality. So, avoid reacting to everything a child might say. Whatever they are doing might not last that long.
Secondly, as parents we need to pay attention to what influences our children. If they are getting ideas from television shows, peers, or even other people in the home, we need to spend time with them and talk about their perceptions. As parents our comments and behavior can set an attitude at home that includes the message: Selling pot is not cool. We can back up what we say with a few facts. We can make a comment whenever there is a news story about a drug seller who got arrested. But remember, setting an attitude isn’t something that happens instantly with a lecture. Attitudes develop over time in subtle ways. A thirty-second comment from a parent every week during the elementary years will have more impact than one lecture during middle school.
Finally, if a child is actually selling weed, then he or she is in a crisis. Even if the child does not have an addiction, he or she is engaging in illegal activity. Plus, that child is almost certainly involved with dangerous people. At this point, a parent’s role might seem more like that of a warden. But, for the safety and health of the child, the child should see the parents as a constant presence. For example, parents should screen calls, confirm with the parents of friends when their child goes out, and limit the child’s access to money. If a child is selling drugs, parents should have that child evaluated for a drug or alcohol problem by a certified chemical dependency counselor. To find a list of chemical dependency counselors, conduct a zip code search through the State of Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board licensure verification site- https://license.ohio.gov/lookup/default.asp?division=101, or call the Board at (614) 387-1110.
If a child has never been involved with juvenile court, then another option in Franklin County would be to contact the County Prosecutor Office and file a complaint alleging that a child is unruly. This is a serious step, and all parents or guardians must be willing to cooperate. Most parents and youth agree that taking this kind of step is much better than waiting to see if a child will wind up arrested and adjudicated in juvenile court. A child facing an unruly charge may be placed into a period of supervision, having to report to a probation officer and required to obey other requirements like attending school, seeking counseling, and obeying curfews. A child who successfully completes this process may have their record sealed or expunged. You can get more information from the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Intake Department at (614) 525-7388.
WHEN YOU KNOW THERE IS A PROBLEM…
7. There was some talk of multiple attempts at rehab. If those do not work, what should a person or family do? How many times should a person try rehab?
There is no magic number regarding attempts at rehab. The facts are that recovering from addiction is no different from other diseases that are affected by a person’s behavior. But, for many people, sticking with the lessons learned in treatment can be tough. As the chart below demonstrates, the rate of relapse for drug addiction is very similar for other conditions that require lifestyle changes, like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.
INSERT CHART Source: JAMA 284:1689-1695, 2000
Any reputable rehabilitation program is comprehensive, and will include a family component. Parents should make attendance a priority. The program should also offer some kind of family counseling so that the entire family can participate in the aftercare planning that will help the recovering person develop a lifestyle that will help him or her maintain abstinence and avoid relapse. An intensive program, like a residential or day treatment program, will probably have a step-down process so that treatment doesn’t end abruptly. Again, the youth and the youth’s family should attend the entire program until achieving an approved, clinical discharge. Thereafter, parents should ask the youth, daily, about how recovery is going. Not every day will be a happy one. Some days the youth will resent the requirements for recovery; some days the youth will be bitter that old friends are not in recovery. But other days will be satisfying and the youth will develop more pride in abstinence and more motivation to remain active in recovery. Eitherway, parents should encourage the youth, and offer whatever help is needed – such as rides to support groups, or opening the house to recovering peers, or making sure that a youth gets to scheduled appointments.
As parents it is important to get help for our teens. We need to fully research all the options, get them involved in treatment, and support all treatment efforts, including looking at one’s own behaviors and attitudes. As a family disease, it takes the whole family to get better. This is where support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon can be useful in seeing how the family as a whole needs to change. (In central Ohio, Al-Anon can be found at www.coafg.org, (614) 547-1550; and the Ohio Chapter for Nar-Anon can be found at www.usrecovery.info/Nar-Anon/Ohio.htm). You can find a directory of chemical dependency programs in Central Ohio at www.odadas.ohio.gov/Directory, and at the website for the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment services locator at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. Information about individual counselors who provide chemical dependency services can be found by conducting a zip code search through the State of Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board licensure verification site- https://license.ohio.gov/lookup/default.asp?division=101, or call the Board at (614) 387-1110.
8. How do we survive the aftermath? When the healing has started, when we want to trust but the worry and fear is still there, always watching and waiting. How do those of us that go through the turmoil move forward?
Of course you will feel fearful and worry about relapse. In the first months, recovery can be as nerve-wracking as the addiction was. So discuss your child’s plan of action for abstinence and relapse prevention. Be a part of your child’s recovery plan. Attend all parent/family sessions, and ask the counselors to refer you to support groups. Ask your child how he or she would like you to help them monitor their progress in recovery. Ask how recovery is going. Mention your concerns when your child seems to be struggling, but don’t accuse them of relapsing. Be an ear for them, and offer advice that goes along with the plan that they created to help them stay clean and sober.
In addition, recognize that addiction is a family illness and parents have to focus on themselves to restore a healthy balance. Parents should consider counseling for themselves and joining support groups, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, to avoid focusing on the “craziness” that the anxiety surrounding a child’s drug and alcohol use can produce. In central Ohio, Al-Anon can be found at www.coafg.org, (614) 547-1550; and the Ohio contact for Nar-Anon can be found at www.usrecovery.info/Nar-Anon/Ohio.htm.
Also, parents should not forget the importance of sober supports in the child’s life. They must be around people who do not use! There are young-people’s Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. You can find more information at www.aacentralohio.org, (614) 253-8501, and www.nacentralohio.org, (614) 252-1700.
IF YOU’VE DONE EVERYTHING AND IT JUST HASN’T WORKED…
9. If someone you know says their child/family member is a drug addict, what can we say to them to help that person? My daughter died of heroin overdose in October 2010 and I still don’t know the answer. I get asked a lot and I am sad that I still don’t know what to say to them.
It is always sad to learn about the loss of a young person. The family must address their grief, individually and together. The stages and timelines for grieving are different for everyone. Seek professional help and support through such groups as the SOLACE network (https://www.drugfreeactionalliance.org/SOLACE) and Compassionate Friends (http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx)
If someone tells you something like this, they must consider you trustworthy and important. Offer them a shoulder to lean on as they deal with their situation. There are two things to consider if you want to give someone advice about drugs and alcohol: First of all, encourage them to talk about the behavior they see with the addicted family member. Then find resources about addiction and treatment and encourage them to follow through with appointments and commitments. If you want, offer to go with them to support group meetings, drive them to appointments, and be someone they can call day or night to help. You don’t need to have the answers. It will probably be enough for them to know you are on their side.
According to research conducted by efforts like the Consortium for Addiction and Treatment Outcome Research (CATOR), the sad, statistical reality is that some people will not embrace the responsibilities of recovery, regardless of the number of treatment efforts they attempt.
Recovery is most successful for people who are motivated for change. People who attempt rehabilitation only to avoid consequences are likely to lose their motivation once the consequences die down. Some individuals just get used to a crisis-based lifestyle, full of drama and danger. No parent should assume their child is one of those people. However, if a parent has made strong efforts to support a child’s efforts at recovery, allow a child to endure consequences, provided resources and finances to help recovery, but the child simply has never improved, then the parent should not feel responsible for the plight of a child who cannot or will not recover. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can help parents in this situation. (In central Ohio, Al-Anon can be found at www.coafg.org, (614) 547-1550; and the Ohio contact for Nar-Anon can be found at www.usrecovery.info/Nar-Anon/Ohio.htm. )
Ten Ways Family Members Can Help (The Counseling Center, Portsmouth OH)
The Steps to Getting Help…For your loved one who may be struggling with addiction (Robin Seymour-Hicks, LSW, CDCA)