It’s natural for parents to hope that their children know right from wrong. Everyone wants to assume that they’ve done their job in showing their kids what to avoid and how to stay away from the wrong crowd. But even in the best household, it’s possible for children to begin using drugs and develop addictions in secret.
How Does it Happen?
The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that parents begin talking to their children about drugs and alcohol in fourth grade. According to the Betty Ford Center, it is at that very age that children have the earliest inclination to partake, with risk levels increasing until those children hit age 16.
That is the most critical age due to peer pressure, heightening curiosity and a greater level of freedom provided by parents. Of course, addiction can take hold long before age 16, so parents must always be on the lookout.
A child’s teenage years are particularly difficult for his or her parents. Teens are increasingly isolated and private, and parents have trouble keeping up with the changes in their children’s lives. Additionally, teenagers are easily influenced by others. As they see that these things they’ve been warned about are actually being done, and that people are living through them, they may become more inclined to
try drugs and alcohol.
What Parents Must Look For
Whether or not you think your child may have a drug problem, you should always be proactive in looking for signs. Even if things seem status quo now, that doesn’t mean things won’t change soon. It also doesn’t mean your child isn’t using drugs. Think of all of the things you hid from your parents as a teenager – kids are crafty and will do anything to keep some things hidden.
That said, there are some signs that you can look for. Some of these are synonymous with the typical teenager experience, but as time progresses, you’ll be able to tell the difference between normal behavior and what’s caused by other influences. Also, your teen may exhibit some of these signs, but not others, so don’t wait until you see every item on this list to say something.
- Missing prescription pills or alcohol
- Unkempt personal appearance
- Burn marks on fingers
- Introduction of incense or air fresheners into bedroom
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Decrease in time spent doing homework
- Decreased interest in sports or after-school activities
- Ignoring old friends in favor of new ones
- Extreme fatigue
- Wearing long sleeves to cover track marks
Being a parent has always meant constant worry, and these teenage years will test your limits in this area. Therefore, it’s critical to say diligent in your search. That one moment you let up may be the moment you lose your child forever. Teenagers change constantly, so be sure to refer to this list throughout your child’s teenage years and make sure there are no warning signs.
A Word of Caution
Leave no stone unturned in your search, but be careful with your assumptions. Your child may have never touched a drug in his or her life, but accusing him or her of being a drug addict may actually send them in that direction. Remember, as much as teenagers crave independence, they also don’t want to disappoint their parents. You want to keep them moving away from drugs, not towards them. By framing the conversation in a prideful way and not a nagging one, you can make a world of difference and reinforce your child’s anti-drug beliefs.