PREVENTION STARTS WITH BEING INFORMED, EDUCATED AND SUPPORTIVE
“Prevention is all about persuasion.”
~ Theodore Caputi
For many parents, a child’s return to school may be met with a bag of mixed emotions, reservations and hesitations. They may have concerns about the potential of peer pressure, discrimination, school violence and exposure to various legal and illegal substances. Preventing or safeguarding a child from making the wrong choices may prove the parents’ greatest nemesis. Why? For far too long, we were lectured on the benefits of tough love and various campaigns on how to “Just Say No.” The truth is, tough love rarely works and seldom benefits the person facing his or her serious problems. After all, we know that those who are struggling with various addictions are often wrestling with a combination of issues. These issues are rarely singular in effect; rather, they are frequently made up of a number of comorbid issues including: the biological, psychological, physiological and sociological.
A parent’s fears may be associated with our own personal perspective on childhood. The fears may be fostered by listening to the local or national news, social media, the town gossip, and/or a person’s professional training.
As summer has ended and school has begun; parents may be exhibiting a number of fears and concerns associated with school. Additionally, a child’s fear may only intensify a parent’s fear of the unknown and the “what ifs.” Do not allow the fears to become the wedge between you and your child. It is your duty to be and become an informed parent.
PREVENTION STARTS WITHIN THE HOME
Prevention begins with honest and open discussion about alcohol and drug use. Children are not the only ones that need to be learning about the effects of alcohol and drug use. For a large number of parents, we are uninformed. Parents need to learn about the potential and harmful side-effects of alcohol and drugs. Being an informed parent will help you to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance and alcohol use, as well as other issues that may be influencing your child.
We know that healthy and frequent communication is key to good relationships, it is the lack therein that is often behind the broken relationships.
Prevention begins with you. As a parent:
1. Regularly reinforce your child’s self-worth and self-esteem
2. Be an active participant in your child’s life.
3. Develop a steady stream of active and healthy communication.
4. Be an involved participant in your child’s academic life.
5. Always be willing to allow your child to discuss uncomfortable
6. Be well informed and educated on topics that may have a direct
or indirect impact on the life of your child.
7. Discuss the dangers of legal and illegal substances.
8. Be consistent with your rules and boundaries.
9. Always reinforce an environment of honesty and integrity.
10. Teach your children to choose his or her friends wisely.
11. Be a regular participant in your child’s extracurricular activities
(e.g. sports, band, clubs)
12. Always forgive for the mistakes that they have made.
13. Be an example of taking ownership and responsibility for your
14. Deny any room for excuse. Do not allow room
for the shame or blame game.
15. Teach your child to set high, but realistic standards in life.
16. Most of all, always offer your child unconditional love and
Being a positive role model, does not mean that you must be perfect. Rather, being a positive role model means that you take ownership and responsibility of your life: the good with the bad; the wrongs with the rights; the successes with the failures. Teaching personal responsibility is one of the keys to prevention.
PREVENTION THROUGH AWARENESS
Research has indicated that the physiological and psychological mind of an individual is not completely developed until they reach the age of 25. It is frightening to think that a child could alter his or her own potential in life by a single moment in time. “Teens often feel indestructible and might not consider the consequences of their actions, leading them to take dangerous risks- such as abusing legal or illegal drugs.” As parents, we must take under careful consideration our own actions, as well as the actions of our children.
“Prevention is much easier than treating the addiction. Waiting to educate your child about drugs until they are 13 or 14 years old is too late. In our experience, many addicted teens started using alcohol at age 9 or 10, then went to more potent drugs. Teaching children to absolutely fear taking drugs, other than medicinally, with permission of a parent, needs to start as young as 5 or 6 years old. Keep it simple for young kids, but be serious. Bend down and look into their eyes when you mean business. You might say, ‘Never, ever take a pill or any medicine from anyone, not even a friend, no matter what they tell you. You can become addicted! You could die!’ Does the child know what that means? Probably not yet, but they know by the tone of your voice and the energy of your words. As they get older, you can discuss it more extensively.”
PREVENTION THROUGH EMPOWERMENT
Personal empowerment occurs when we recognize that all humans were made equally. It occurs when we recognize that no one has a right to infringe upon our personal right to safety and care. Likewise, it teaches us that we should never infringe upon other’s personal rights to safety and care; nor should we allow others to breach those rights.
We empower others by making them aware of the risk factors associated with at-risk behaviors and the consequences that may follow if they so choose to partake of those behaviors. We empower our youth not only by making them well-informed, but by teaching them to expect more for their own lives. Empowerment is essentially giving an individual the right to make decisions or dictate his or her own life.
The empowerment of the individual occurs when we:
1. Establish a healthy parameter of expectations: what is allowable
and what is not
2. Maintain time for one another: family time is bonding time
3. Forgive one another and forgive ourselves
4. Love one another: Love thyself
5. Maintain a regular routine of healthy and respectful
While one aspect of personal empowerment is about making autonomous decisions; another aspect is about teaching the individual to have a new perspective on life and self. For many individuals, it is much easier to show love unto another, than it is to have love for oneself. It is of utmost importance that we teach others the need for unconditional self-love and acceptance.
What does it mean to live unconditionally? We learn to live an unconditional life by the expectations that we set for ourselves. If I am willing to allow anyone to compromise the integrity of my personal worth or value, then I have compromised my unconditional state. Likewise, if I have unconditional love for myself, then I will reject anything that is offered to the contrary. Furthermore, I will not offer others anything but respect and integrity too. Living an unconditional state means that I will accept myself beyond the good or the bad; my failures or my successes; and that I will love myself beyond the parameters that I may have set or that may have been set by others.
As parents, we must model the behaviors that we wish for our child to exhibit. We must be clear with our expectations and desires. We must advocate for our own rights, as well as the rights of others. We must be well-informed and educated on topics that may have an impact upon our lives and the lives our children. We must avoid excusing at-risk behaviors and uplift positive behaviors. We must be willing to seek out advice, critiques, and feedback. Finally, we should help our children to prove resilient, empowered, and to live life unconditionally.
Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.