Problems with drugs arise when a teenager is not involved in activities that express positive values and do not have a supportive family and social environment. Without these anchors, some children seek ways of escape. Drugs offer such an escape, although their long-term consequences can be harmful. The good news is that even teenagers in the highest risk conditions can build on their strengths or "protective" factors to prevent the negative factors from dominating their lives.
What does this mean for parents? It means that you can help your child build resilience to avoid drug misuse through the following factors:
A trusting, open relationship with a parent or other respected adult can be the most powerful element in deterring harmful behaviors. Sometimes communication about drug issues and feelings are difficult between parents and their teens. Remember, you can always connect your teen to another trusted adult whether an uncle, older sibling, track coach, boss, etc. What is most important is that teenagers know that the important adults in their lives are concerned primarily with their safety, and that they have someone to turn to when they need help.
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Encouraging a teenager to discover and develop interests
Your teen’s interests and positive involvements can help him/her take responsibility, build confidence, channel energy and feelings, and generate enthusiasm, creativity, and productivity. Teenagers with interests learn about life while developing skills and a sense of self-worth. These activities can also give your teen a powerful stake in growing up healthy. Developing a lifestyle that competes with substance use is one of the most natural and effective ways to reinforce sustainable, positive change…and you, as a parent, are in a unique position to help create this lifestyle. Contact your teen’s school to learn more about opportunities for them to get involved in activism, volunteering, sports, music, journalism, art, dance, coding, employment, and internships available.
Teens are hard-wired to take risks and experiment. A recent study on drug use in Iceland, which 20 years ago had the highest rate of teen alcohol use in all of Europe, found that replacing drug-induced highs with natural highs could drastically reduce substance abuse.
For kids who are seeking thrills, giving them a risk-taking but safe alternative, like skateboarding or BMX racing, could replace the synthetic high offered by drugs with a “natural” high. For kids who want the sedative effect of a depressant, getting them involved in yoga or running could produce a similar effect. The Iceland study showed that kids were not so much addicted to the substance as they were to the release of the hormone—the dopamine or serotonin.