An integral piece to consider when fostering resilience in the face of the opioid crisis is education and prevention. Education and prevention have come a long way over the last couple decades. There are evidenced-based curricula that provide drug facts and decision making skills that have been proven to work better than scare tactics and the mantra of “just say no.”
A good prevention program provides factual information about drug use, teaches life skills that are needed to make good decisions and provides opportunities for students to practice those skills.
These help students to think critically and delay the onset of use; which is key because we know that the majority of addictions take root during the teenage years so every year that we are keeping a student from using drugs makes it less likely that they will ever develop an addiction. Would you consider allowing your student to participate in the prevention program offered in their school district?
If your child is already receiving prevention curriculum, use the topics discussed in those classes as a jumping off point for family discussions about behavior when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Even if your child is not yet in middle or high school, it is never too early for you to model the behavior you want them to see when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
A good prevention program also provides education to parents, schools, and the community at large. Around here we believe that there is no way to over-communicate healthy habits in regards to drugs and alcohol. The more adults who share this information with children, the more likely they are to listen.
Here are a few tips from drugfree.org to help facilitate a conversation around drugs and alcohol with the teens and preteens in your life.
- Remain calm. Take a deep breath before responding.
- Keep an open mind. If your child feels judged, he or she is less likely to be receptive to what you have to say.
- Avoid lecturing. Instead, try to come from a place of positivity and curiosity which will help lead to a more open dialogue. Example: “Let’s explore your question in more detail, because it is a good one.”
- Thank your child for coming to you with questions. This will reassure him that you’re a safe place to get answers. At the end of your conversation, thank him again for talking with you.
- Remind your teen that you care deeply about her health and well-being.
Example: “I want us to be able to discuss these topics because I love you and I want to help during these years when you’re faced with a lot of difficult choices.”
Just like a good prevention program these conversations should be on-going and start well before a student would be pressured into using drugs and alcohol. That way, they are prepared and practiced with decision-making skills that will help them say no.
Warning: this might elicit some eye-rolling from your teen, but hey, what doesn’t? Carry on.