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Children are going to experience pressure at some point in their lives – pressure to achieve academically; pressure to fit in; pressure to establish their career path; etc. With the increasing demands put on teens today, along with enhanced exposure to drugs, alcohol and partying through social media, they are especially vulnerable to the dangers of abusing substances and developing addictive behavior.

It’s important to establish open communication between you and your child – not only to steer him or her away from risky behavior but to also separate fact from fiction when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Many parents are nervous to have ‘the drug talk,’ and that’s completely normal. Below are tips on how to get started.

It’s never too early to begin

Start developing an ongoing dialogue with your child during his or her preschool years – ages 3 to 5. We know what you’re thinking…preschool? That early? These early years are essential for development, and they’re the perfect time to start establishing a healthy mindset in your child. Look for everyday situations that can be used as teachable moments. For example, discuss how he or she feels when eating a healthy meal or gets enough sleep; start developing essential problem-solving skills by letting your child make his or her own decisions; and inform your child of dangerous everyday household substances such as bleach, paint etc. These small, first steps show your child what a healthy lifestyle is.

Sheltering is good, but informing is better

As previously stated, we’re in the era of enhanced exposure to the media. Children are constantly exposed to messages, photos and videos, emphasizing that partying, drugs and alcohol are “cool” things to do. There’s no getting around it. That’s why it’s important to explain the real-life effects when using drugs or alcohol and discuss how you feel about dangerous substances. You can share information as big as death rates due to drunk driving or as small as the fact that it’s much more difficult to exceed in extracurricular activities and academics when high. Make sure you’re stating the facts and not just trying to instill fear.

Just say “no”

This phrase is much easier said than done. If children don’t know how to respond to peer pressure, they’re much more susceptible to give into it. So, teach them! If it takes acting out real-life situations in your living room, go for it. Come up with excuses your child will feel comfortable saying. For example, “I’m meeting my parents later, and I don’t want my breath and clothes to smell bad,” or “I have a football game tomorrow, and I want to be at my best.”

Raising a child can be hard, and if you would like assistance when it comes to talking through these kinds of tough issues, consider reaching out to South Bay to learn about our family therapy and intensive family services. For quality care and exceptional services, our Mental Health and Substance Abuse clinicians treat each individual with specific programs tailored to their needs. South Bay strives to provide the proper programs, certified staff members and clinicians for the perfect combination of professional therapy and guidance.

For more information, contact us at 508-521-2200 or click here.