How to Prevent Addiction at Every Age?

Whether your child is meandering through school, cruising through his college and racing through his adult life — here are tips to help guide him/her towards a healthy life at every age !

5-8 year olds

5-to-8-year olds are still tied to family and eager to please but they're also beginning to explore their individuality. In addition, your kid begins to spend more time at school with other students and is exposed to information (including messages about drugs, smoking and alcohol) from various mediums like the media and popular culture. It's very important that you continue talking to your child about a healthy dependence free lifestyle and stress that out of all the voices your child hears, yours should be the guiding force.

Here are 9 tips to help you guide your child toward a healthy, dependence free life:

  • Keep your discussions about smoking, alcohol, and other drugs factual and focused on the present. Long-term consequences are too distant to have any meaning. Let your child know that people who drink too much alcohol get sick and throw up, or that smoking makes clothes stink and causes bad breath. Keep the explanations simple and easy for your kid to relate to.
  • Talk to your kids about the drug / smoking / alcohol-related messages they receive through advertisements, the news media and entertainment sources. Some TV shows or movies may even glamorize smoking or alcohol abuse. Remember to ask your kids how they feel about the things they've heard — you'll learn a great deal about what they're thinking.
  • Consider the following topics when discussing with your child:
    • Why are drugs illegal?
    • What harm such substances can do to users?

You should also consider talking about the differences between the medicinal uses and illegal uses of drugs, and how drugs can impact the families and friends of users.

  • Set clear rules and behave the way you want your kids to behave. Tell them the reasons for your rules. If you use tobacco or alcohol, be mindful of the message you are sending to your children.
  • Help your child explore new ways to express their feelings. Kids who feel shy in one-on-one conversation with parents might open up through painting, writing, or emailing a friend or relative. Do not feel dejected, and be encouraging to the idea of your kid expressing in his own comfort zone.
  • Work on problem solving by focusing on the types of problems kids come across. Help them find long-lasting solutions to homework trouble, a fight with a friend, or in dealing with a bully. Be sure to point out that quick fixes are not long-term solutions and that running away from a problem is not the solution.
  • Give your kids the power to escape from situations that make them feel bad. Make sure they know that they shouldn't stay in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves. Also let them know that they don't need to stick with friends who don't support them.
  • Get to know your child's friends — and their friends' parents. Check in by phone or a visit once in a while to make sure they are giving their children the same kinds of messages you give your children.
  • Sign your kids up with extracurricular activities, sports, dance, community groups or programs that emphasize the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle. Engaging your kids in such activities helps build team spirit and gives them ways to channelize all their energy in activities that reinforce healthy living. Your kids will have fun, stay active and develop healthy friendships.

Substances in a 5-8 year old child’s world can include: Tobacco, Alcohol

9-12 year olds

Pre-teens: They're on a quest to figure out their place in the world. When it comes to the way they view that world, they tend to give their friends' opinions a great deal of power while, at the same time, they're starting to question their parents' views and messages. Your advice may be challenged — but it will be heard and will stay with your child much more than he or she will ever admit.

Here are 8 tips to help you help your preteen live a healthy, dependence free life:

  • Make sure your child knows your rules — and that you'll enforce the consequences if rules are broken. This applies to no-use rules about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs — as well as bedtime and homework. Research shows that kids are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
  • Act out scenes with your child where people offer her drugs. Kids who don't know what to say or how to get away are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Let her know that she can always use you as an excuse and say: "No, my mom [or dad, aunt, etc.] will kill me if I smoke a cigarette." Explain why she shouldn't continue friendships with kids who have offered her cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
  • Tell your child what makes him so special. Puberty can have negative effects on a child's self-esteem. Feelings of insecurity, doubt and pressure may creep in. Offset those feelings with a lot of positive comments about his/her life and who he/she is as an individual — and which is not just dependent on the good academic marks they bring home.
  • Give your children the power to make decisions that go against their friends. You can reinforce this message through small things such as encouraging your child to pick out the shoes he likes rather than the pair his four friends have. This will help him start making independent decisions and it will help him especially when he has to say "NO" to cigarettes, drugs and alcohol when offered by his friends.
  • Base drug and alcohol messages on facts, not fear. Kids can't argue with facts but their new need for independence may allow them to get around their fears. Also, kids love to learn facts — both run-of-the-mill and truly odd.
  • Preteens aren't concerned with future problems that might result from experimentation with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, but they are concerned about their appearance — sometimes to the point of obsession. Tell them about the smelly hair and ashtray breath caused by cigarettes. Make sure they know that it would be hard to perform in the school play while high on marijuana.
  • Get to know your child's friends — and their friends' parents. Check in by phone or a visit once in a while to make sure they are giving their children the same kinds of messages you give your children about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • Help children separate reality from fantasy. Watch TV and movies with them and ask lots of questions to reinforce the distinction between the two. Remember to include advertising in your discussions, as those messages are especially powerful.

Substances in a 9-10 year old child’s world can include: Tobacco, Alcohol, Marijuana.

13-15 year olds

For parents, this is a pivotal time in helping kids make positive choices when faced with drugs and alcohol. The average age kids try drugs for the first time is 13. If your child is 13, you should assume that he or she has been offered drugs or alcohol. But you can help your teen stay healthy and dependence free — and beat the negative statistics about drug use among teens. Kids who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use (2011 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study). So, most importantly, stay involved. Young teens may say they don't need your guidance, but they're much more open to it than they'll ever show. Make sure you talk to them about their choices of friends — drug use in teens starts as a social behavior.

Here are 5 tips to help you guide your teen toward a healthy, dependence free life:

  • Make sure your teen knows your rules and the consequences for breaking those rules -- and, most importantly, that you really will enforce those consequences if the rules are broken. This applies to no-use rules about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, as well as curfews and homework. Research shows that kids are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules. And kids who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs. Find ways to check if he/she is spending the pocket money you gave, as he/she is claiming.
  • Let your teen in on all the things you find wonderful about him. He needs to hear a lot of positive comments about his life and who he is as an individual — and not just when he makes the football team. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in preventing drug, alcohol use and smoking among teens.
  • Show interest — and discuss — your child's daily ups and downs. You'll earn your child's trust, learn how to talk to each other, and don't take your child by surprise when you voice a strong point of view about drugs, alcohol or smoking.
  • Tell your kid about the negative effect alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs have on physical appearance. Teens are extremely concerned with their physical appearance. Tell them about a time you saw a friend or acquaintance get sick from alcohol — reinforce how completely disgusting it was. Reinforce the fact that the being high makes you say and do stupid things which might offend others and which you may regret you had never said or done.
  • Don't just leave your child's anti-addiction education up to her school. Ask your teen what she's learned about drugs, alcohol and smoking in school and then continue with that topic or introduce new topics. A few points to consider: the long-term effects that tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs have on the human body; how and why chemical dependence occurs — including the unpredictable nature of dependency and how it varies from person to person; the impact of drug and alcohol use on society — societal costs of impaired health and loss of productivity; hazards of driving under the influence of drugs maintaining a healthy lifestyle; positive approaches to stress reduction; or setting realistic short- and long-term goals.

Substances in a 13-15 year old child’s world can include: Tobacco, Alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs such as Marijuana, Ecstasy, Herbal Ecstasy, Cocaine/Crack, GHB, Heroin, Rohypnol, Ketamine, LSD, Mushrooms

16-18 year olds

When it comes to drugs, teens are a savvy bunch. Drugs and messages about living dependence free have been part of their lives for years. They can make distinctions not only among different drugs and their effects, but also among trial, occasional use and addiction. They've witnessed many of their friends using drugs — some without obvious or immediate consequences, others whose drug use gets out of control. By the late teen years, kids have also had to make plenty of choices of their own about drug use: whether they should give in to peer pressure and experiment with drugs, or go against some of their friends and stay clean.

Here are 6 tips to help you help your teen continue to live a healthy, dependence free life:

  • Don’t speak generally about drug- and alcohol-use— your older teen needs to hear detailed and reality-driven messages. Topics worth talking about with your teen are: using a drug just once can have serious permanent consequences; it can put you in a risky and dangerous situation; anybody can become a chronic user or addict; combining drugs can have deadly consequences.Give facts, discuss with him/her a scientific rationale as they are now capable of truly understanding what addiction really is
  • Emphasize what drug use can do to your kid's future. Discuss how drug use can ruin your teen's chances of getting into the college she's been dreaming about or landing the perfect job.
  • Challenge your child to be a peer leader among his friends and to take personal responsibility for his actions and show others how to do the same.
  • Encourage your teen to volunteer somewhere that he can see the impact of drugs on your community. Teenagers tend to be idealistic and enjoy hearing about ways they can help make the world a better place. Help your teen research volunteer opportunities at our NGO. You or your kid can contact us and get more information on how your kid/you together can get involved with community service and truely making a positive impact on the society. Visit our 'Get Involved' page to connect with us.
  • Use news reports as discussion openers. If you see a news story about an alcohol-related car accident, talk to your teen about all the victims that an accident leaves in its wake. If the story is about drugs in your community, talk about the ways your community has changed and been affected as drug use has grown.
  • Compliment your teen for the all the things he/she does well and for the positive choices he/she makes. Let him know that he/she is seen and appreciated. And let him/her know how you appreciate what a good role model he/she is for a younger sibling and other kids in the community. Kids still care what their parents think. Let him know how deeply disappointed you would be if he/she started using drugs, alcohol or smoking, as that is not the benchmark he/she should set for him/herself.

Substances in a 13-15 year old child’s world can include: Tobacco, Alcohol, prescription drugs, Inhalants, Marijuana, Ecstasy, Herbal Ecstasy, Cocaine/Crack, GHB, Heroin, Rohypnol, Ketamine, LSD, Mushrooms.

19-25 year olds

As you prepare your child for life after college you can help guide him/her to a healthy experience. And you don't have to challenge his/her independence to do it. You let him know you always love him/her and will always be there to support him/her. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have responsibilities of his own, or that he/she isn’t responsible for making his own bed or contributing to the household.

Finishing College

  • Ideally, you've already been talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol during school and college years. Research shows students who drank in school are three times more likely to begin heavy episodic drinking in universities.
  • Don't buy into the myth that allowing teens to drink around you will help them deal with alcohol issues when they're on their own. Research shows that, no matter who they drink with in school, "they'll sustain and increase their drinking level" in future.

Off to University

If you are sending your kid abroad or to another city for higher education:

  • Make sure you keep an open line of communication with them. It's not all about the topic of drinking and drug use, it's about maintaining that really supportive relationship. Your child needs to know that if any problems or difficult situations arise, he/she can turn to you for help. Be your kid's friend.
  • Don't want to come across as over-protective? Rather than asking about her friends, you might be asking about her classes and what he/she's interested in. This can give you clues as to what he/she is doing when in university.
  • Stay alert to possible mental health issues. Between the ages of 18 and 25 are when a lot of things pop up, if they haven't already in adolescence, like anxiety disorders. There is a strong link between mental and physical health issues and the use of drugs and alcohol. Just in case something does happen, make sure you know what resources are provided by the university for your kid.

Prescription Drugs in the Dorms and in your child’s university life

While the most popular drugs in university campuses are alcohol and marijuana, non-medical use of prescription stimulants, analgesics (painkillers), and tranquilizers is on the rise. Though prescription drugs do have an important role when prescribed by a doctor, unsupervised use of them can be extremely harmful. While some parents turn a blind eye because they think the drugs may help their child do better in school, this is something you definitely want to disapprove of. Keep in mind:

  • Abusing painkillers is like abusing heroin because both drugs’ ingredients (both are opioids) are very similar.
  • Many pills look pretty much the same, but depending on the drug and the dosage the effects can vary greatly from mild to lethal.
  • Non-medical use of prescription drugs is actually associated with decreased academic performance, not an increase. Researchers believe that students get into a cycle of spending a lot of time with friends, doing drugs, smoking and drinking, instead of going to classes. Then they turn to prescription stimulants to help them get through. The combination does not work.

Substances in a 19-25 year old child’s world can include:

Tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs such as Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin. Inhalants, Marijuana, Ecstasy, Herbal Ecstasy, Cocaine/Crack, GHB, Heroin, Rohypnol, Ketamine, LSD, Mushrooms.

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