Teens and Risky Behavior

Have the Talk

The Family Environment

I hear teachers, police and fire professionals involved with various drug education programs express that with children, especially when they are younger, "it's what they encounter in the home which is most important. That it isn't as important what the parents say, but what they do which children learn by." For example, if you cope with stress or disappointment by drinking or smoking, your children are more likely to do the same thing. Hard to believe, but by grades four to six many children know a classmate who has begun to smoke or use drugs. It is during these later years of elementary school when choices involving drugs and alcohol are being made by our children. It is especially important for parents to teach their children at this young age to make decisions on their own and not to be a follower. These lessons may help your child avoid some of the peer pressure to" join in."

Just Speak to Them. Get Involved

It seems that the most successful discussions are those that involve conversation, rather than those that involve accusations. Perhaps you might say to your child, "Why do you think students use drugs, and how do they deal with the peer pressure?" as opposed to putting your child on the spot and pressuring him or her to say whether they have used drugs or not. This may be a lot easier said than done. But being open and honest, rather than accusatory, with your children about your views on drugs and alcohol can better help them understand why you don't want them taking part. Discuss facts and information rather than using scare tactics.

Parents, learn about drugs and don't get discouraged. Your child may seem as if she or he isn't listening, but please don't give up. Hopefully love and support, as well as keeping involved with your child's life, will give them a good sense of self-worth, and the ability to stay drug free.

For more information, please call the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention's National Clearinghouse at 1-800-729-6686.

Copyright 2003, Dr. Rob Danoff

Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician. He is program director of Family Practice Residency Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a medical correspondent for The Comcast Network, CN8, contributing writer to the New York Times and writes a weekly medical column for the Bucks Courier Times, Bucks County Pa.