Alcohol and drug abuse is something we all want our kids to stay away from. But like it or not, many kids in elementary school right now will start experimenting with drugs and alcohol within a few years. Every kid is responsible for their own choices, but parents behaviors and words have a lot of influence when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
You don’t have to completely avoid alcohol is a parent to be a good role model. If you do drink occasionally and responsibly, you can model that drinking is an adult-only activity to be done with care. And of course, don’t endorse anything that’s illegal such as underage or illegal drug use.
If you don’t drink at all, then simply keep all alcohol out of the house and stress the legal age limit. However, be aware that you cannot completely shelter your kids from the existence of drugs and alcohol in their community. If you put them in a tiny cocoon, they may not handle this reality well when it affects one of their friends someday. Sometimes, a kid raised in a strict household goes in the opposite direction in order to find balance. So even if you stay completely away from alcohol, be sure your kids are informed enough to understand the risks and realities.
In addition to your own alcohol use, keep on top of your kid’s social life. Be adamant about knowing who they are with, whether other parents know what’s going on, and if there will be any chance of drugs or alcohol being around. Encourage sober socialization by having gatherings at your house where you can be in control the situation. Unfortunately, some parents are negative role models in numerous ways. Any sort of illegal drug use obviously shows disregard for the wall, family members, and safety. A not so obvious problem is parents giving a nod and a link to their kids about having parties with alcohol. Even if the parents don’t drink much themselves, being permissive on the age limit puts kids at risk.
Some parents believe that all kids will inevitably drink alcohol, so why not just supervise them and keep them safe? That is a completely false assumption. Kids will do what they are permitted to do, whether they have out-right permission or have enough motivation to get around the rules. When parents hold a firm line and foster loving family relationships, kids don’t have much reason to push the limits with drugs and alcohol.
That brings me to an even less obvious connection between the negative parent role models and kids at risk for drug and alcohol abuse. When parents are alcoholics or drug abusers, they do more than just expose their children to their addiction behaviors. Their addiction creates an emotional vacuum in the family. Children of alcoholics and drug addicts become so starved for a close emotional connection with their parents. When this pain grows unbearable, drugs and alcohol sure seem like a familiar escape route.
Don’t underestimate your role in helping kids steer clear drugs and alcohol. Know your kid’s personality, your kid’s friends, their parents, and do your best to prepare them for life as an adult in a world with drugs and alcohol.