Talking to Your Tween About Drugs
So your tween is entering middle school. Have you talked with him about the dangers of drugs yet? And before you say drugs are just something to worry about during the teen years, consider this fact: a 2004 study showed that abuse of inhalants by 6th graders rose 44 percent over a 2-year period.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the risk of drug use increases significantly during the transition to middle school. Your child may be exposed to older kids who use drugs and alcohol, and unfortunately your child may look up to these older kids. As he enters middle school, there will also be a whole new level of peer pressure and a desire to fit in.
As your child approaches adolescence, he will begin to seek his own identity and independence. He may challenge your values or begin pulling away from you and his father. And even though he may act as if he no longer needs to be parented, this is the time when you need to be an active and hands-on mother. Maintaining open communication and a healthy relationship with your tween will be crucial when he is facing peer pressure.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America provides the following tips for talking with your tween about drugs and becoming a hands-on parent:
- Continually work on your communication with your tween. Hold weekly family meetings to discuss any concerns he has about school or peer pressure.
- Discuss why you don’t want your child using drugs, and research the latest dangers (you can visit DrugFree.org [http://www.drugfree.org/Parent/Drug_Guide/] for information on common drugs). And don’t just focus on the illegal drugs. Be sure to talk about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and inhalants.
- It’s not enough to lecture your child. Make sure he understands why drugs are dangerous. Have him repeat back to you exactly what the dangers are.
- Become a hands-on parent by becoming involved in your tween’s life. Get involved with his school by volunteering whenever possible; get to know his friends by allowing them to spend time at your home and by carpooling them. You may also want to meet the parents of your child’s friends as well, and make sure they share your values about drug use.
- If your child is spending a lot of his after-school time with friends in unsupervised settings, try to find adult-supervised activities at his school, a community center or YMCA. You can also fill some of his free time with chores or family activities. Give him guidelines on what he is allowed to do after school, and make sure he knows to call you for check-ins.
- While it may be difficult to control your temper if you child ends up in a situation you don’t approve of, make sure your tween knows that he can always call you, no matter what happens, if he needs to leave a bad situation.
- As embarrassing as it may be for your tween, don’t hesitate to call other parents to verify they will be home during parties and that there will be no alcohol or other substances allowed at the party.
- As your child begins developing a social life, make sure you set firm boundaries on curfews, expectations, and what the consequences are for breaking the rules.
Middle school can be an exciting and scary time for your tween. Being a hands-on parent and fostering open communication with him will help make those years a little smoother.
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This article was based on information from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. For more information on drug use prevention, visit their website at DrugFree.org.
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