Adolescence is a stage of life in which your child develops sophisticated thinking and reasoning skills that enable them to learn who they are, build independence and a sense of self, and get ready to eventually leave the nest. As the development of higher-level cognitive functioning progresses in adolescence, your child’s brain undergoes a “remodeling process,” and thus, they start to think in more abstract ways and see the world differently—albeit not always accurately. Risk-taking, thrill-seeking, and pushing boundaries are some of the hallmarks of this remodeling process.
These behaviors, in themselves, are a normal part of growing up. However, many teens take them too far, adopting unwholesome habits, such as drinking alcohol and using drugs, which are often driven by that “cool factor” and the desire to either impress or be affirmed by their peers.
While occasional alcohol and drug use can seem innocuous, it can develop into full-blown addiction, which can have serious repercussions on the safety, health, and even the freedom of a teen.
As a loving parent, you want to know what to do to keep your child from treading such a dangerous path. We’ve gathered a few tips from our highly credentialed pediatricians here at BridgeSpan Medicine to help parents, like you, protect their children from alcohol and drug abuse.
Tip #1 Have Friendly Conversations with Your Teen.
Having friendly conversations with your teen goes a long way toward winning their trust and confidence in you. Sometimes, all they need is the assurance that they have a safe place to unload and process what’s going on in their lives—and they’re understood and heard.
Take them for a walk, have lunch with them in a quiet place, or invite them to do things with you. Think of a way to capture your teen’s interest without making them feel they’re being lectured. From there, segue into discussing the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on their brain, health, freedom, and future.
Tip #2 Monitor Your Teen’s Friendships and Activities.
One of the best gifts you can give your teen is that of being involved in their lives. The lack of it, studies show, can put your teen at risk for substance abuse.
Get to know and have a relationship with your child’s friends. This way, you can gain crucial insight into the kind of people your child is involved with. Keep an eye on these friendships to ensure they stay positive.
Similarly, make sure to keep track of your child’s activities. Ask a lot of questions, and when your teen goes out, make sure you know where they’re going and with whom. Set clear and proper expectations for their behavior: have them regularly check in with you to make sure such expectations are being met.
Let your child know that boundaries exist because you love them, and you want to protect them, their health, and their future. Impose moderate, consistent discipline but also make sure to praise or reward them for their good behavior.
Tip #3 Lead by Example.
Many parents tend to fall back on the admonitory order, “Do as I say, not as I do.” However, ideally, parents need to teach their children by example. In other words, if you drink, do so in moderation. Take prescription drugs only as directed by your doctor and avoid illicit drugs.
Tip #4 Foster Open Communication.
Realistically, talking to your teen about alcohol and drugs is not a “one-off” thing. Fostering open communication with your child and allowing the subject to surface and resurface naturally can help you reinforce your expectations with them.
Adolescent Medical Care in Purchase, NY
Here at BridgeSpan Medicine, our board-certified pediatricians provide first-rate adolescent medical care, through which they work closely with parents to lay the groundwork for their children to thrive in all aspects of their health and grow up to be secure and happy adults. Our physicians are highly trained to assess and connect teens already dealing with substance abuse disorders to the most effective interventions (i.e., giving them referrals to psychiatrists and substance abuse programs), which are instrumental in their recovery.