Written by: Beth Creek
We are often asked the question “How can I keep my kids drug free?”. This is a great question and, in part, the answer is resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness, adaptability in the face of adversity or trauma, and emotional strength. Developing resilience in our children is the best way to reduce youth substance abuse, but it also comes with some fantastic side effects, but more on that later.
The relationship between parents and children is directly linked to lower rates of experimentation and substance abuse. Studies show that the number one reason youth choose NOT to experiment with drugs is fear of disappointing their parents. WoW! This means we as parents hold the key! But HOW do we develop a relationship that builds connectivity to our children? Here are some suggestions:
Be PRESENT: Children and youth need our TIME. When we are with them we need to FOCUS on THEM. It is hard in the world we live in to put down our phones, turn off the tv and be present. Plan time to be together. Make one time per week “sacred”, maybe a week night or Saturday afternoon. Kids thrive on structure and will come to look forward to family time/game night/etc. One family I knew loved being active and had a weekly Friday night basketball tournament in their driveway! When the weather was bad they would play ping pong in their basement. The oldest son went to college and would make it a point to be home periodically for Family Night Fridays!
Set an EXAMPLE: Model how to treat others with kindness and compassion. Children and youth who have been taught compassion and kindness are also developing resilience. They need to see us modeling a life in which we treat all people with respect and dignity. Children also benefit from hearing that we aren’t perfect. When we share with them our failures, and how we overcame them, it builds confidence in them that they too can overcome failures.(Keep it age appropriately.)
Teach them to set GOALS: We all can benefit from understanding the value of goal setting! Even adults need to constantly be setting goals for themselves. It has been said if you don’t know where you are aiming you will miss every time. Goals don’t have to be scary or overwhelming. When you work with your child to set a goal, however small, and they achieve that benchmark, there is an opportunity for you to praise them and celebrate their success! We know that success builds on success and a child’s self confidence blossoms when they have those achievements.
A child/youth who feels deeply connected to their parent/caregiver is not only LESS likely to use drugs, but they are MORE likely to have:
Better performance in school
Greater self- control
Improved social skills
So back to that original idea of RESILIENCE. Everything listed here contributes to resilience in your child, and resilience is the cornerstone of youth who become successful adults. Instead of asking “How can I keep my kids drug free?” we should be asking “How can I build resilience in my child?”. Keep on loving them, leading them and pouring into them. That is what builds a culture of prevention in your home. Your investment in them now will pay a lifetime of dividends!