Are you aware of what your children are doing?

 

Often, I receive phone calls from mothers who are clearly upset because they believe their children are using drugs and/or alcohol. The vast majority of these mothers may not know that four in ten adolescents say they have used drugs at some point in their lives. Alcohol and marijuana are the drugs most commonly used among adolescents in the United States.

There are several ways you can learn what your children are doing.

1. Walk around the neighborhood and observe who your children are spending time with. Learn who their friends are.

2. Have a list with the phone numbers of your children’s friends and their parents’ names.

3. Invite your children’s friends to dinner. Talk to them and get to know them well. Ask questions to find out what they do in their spare time.

4. Meet the parents of your children’s friends. Have a social gathering in your home and invite them, so you can get to know them better.

Unfortunately, many parents are extremely busy working long hours or are just too lazy to learn more about their children’s lives. However, establishing a good relationship with teachers and school counselors, you will know how your children behave when they are away from you. For parents who cannot communicate in English, ask for an interpreter or the assistance of a bilingual teacher or counselor.

In surveys, teens usually say that their parents do not talk to them about drugs, even if the parents indicate that they do so. When you talk to your teen, use clear, direct messages, and do not leave room for confusion. Establish a firm rule with your children at an early age about the use of alcohol and other drugs. This may help your children resist pressure from their friends and others who try to get your teen to use drugs or alcohol.

It is also important to listen to your children. Many adults tend to speak more than necessary and do not give their youths an opportunity to talk and express their feelings. Listen more, and talk less. When they tell you something, repeat, in your own words, what they have said, so they know you are listening. Empathy and the ability to connect with your children’s emotions are critical for establishing a healthy relationship with them.

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