In fact, while her friends are getting busted for selling weed at school (yes, this really did just happen), my daughter is staying squeaky clean. Why the turnaround? Here are seven strategies I’ve been using to keep my kid off drugs:
Telling Her What I Did
It may come as a surprise to kids when they find out their parents have a past. What may come as a bigger surprise is that their folks do in fact know every one of the swear words—and, yes, they may have dabbled in a recreational cig or two. I’m not proud. But I’m human. Being open about my own experiences has helped my daughter learn from them.
Looking Facts Up Online
Sure, I can tell my kid that drugs will ruin her life. I can say they’ll turn her brain into a fried egg, just like those ads from the ’80s. But these are pretty vague warnings. For better or for worse, kids today believe what they read online. So when the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse shares evidence that substance abuse can lower your grades or trigger mental illness, my kid sits up and pays attention. (Handy hint: As you surf together, it’s best to avoid websites with words like “high forever” and “grass is good” in the domain name.)
Talking About It
All the time. Certain parent-teen conversations never really come to an end. They’re meant to be picked up, chewed on, put aside and then revisited another day. These ongoing chats mean there are always openings for new questions to come up and new information to be shared—not to mention new opportunities for me to use science to scare the crap out of my kid.
Listening Without Getting Judgy
I don’t ever want my kid to be afraid to tell me things. Whether she has a glue-sniffing habit or an “F” in math (very thankfully, she has neither of these things), my kid needs to know that she can tell me anything. So I try to be a good listener when she comes to me. And because I want her to feel safe talking with me, it also means that I try not to go all “You did what?” on her.
Listening AND Getting Judgy
As a guiding influence in my teen’s life, it’s reasonable for me to share opinions about whatever we’re gabbing about. That doesn’t mean I’m always telling her what she must do or criticizing the choices she’s already made. But I can give her my advice, whether she’s been invited to a party with booze, is feeling pressured by peers, or is confronting an unexpected zit emergency.
Giving Her a Thumbs Up
Not literally. That would be dorky, especially coming from a mom. But when my kid succeeds at making a sensible decision—not always so easy for teenagers, whose frontal lobes are still a mushy, undeveloped mess—I recognize it, and give her full marks.
Setting a Good Example
I might enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but my sloppy-drunk days are definitely behind me. Likewise, I don’t toke up, ever. I shower every day, eat all my vegetables and get regular exercise. I don’t know if any of this is actually keeping my kid off drugs. But I can promise you this: My brain is not fried egg. At least I’ve got that.
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