Sooner or later, most American children will be offered drugs, and will have to make a conscious decision to accept or reject them. And they will likely be faced with this decision many times before they grow out of adolescence. How can you make sure your child continues to make the right choice?
"Parents can help their children learn how to say no when a friend offers drugs by role-playing with them the ways they make tough life choices," says Ruth Wooden, president of the National Parenting Association in New York. She says, "If your kids see how you deal with the tough issues of daily life and how you consider options, your kids will have first hand experience with their own tough choices." She advises parents to ask their children questions like, "My boss wants me to work this weekend and I really would rather not. How do I tell him no without getting in trouble?" Or "Grandma is going to be mad at me if I tell her I don't like the gift she gave me for Christmas. Any ideas on how to handle this?"
"The point is the children need to learn that tough choices are part of everyone's life and it takes practice to think through decision-making strategies. Help your kids get practice and let them know your life is not stress-free either," Wooden says.
Wooden points out two key times to watch when your child may be most vulnerable to use drugs. One is when they are feeling really low, maybe after a bad test or losing a game or when a friend moves away. The notion that "drugs will make you feel better" can have a lot of appeal during the down times. Children need to be alerted to the fact that the best decision to make when they are feeling blue is no decision at all. Important decisions require them to "be thinking clearly" and being sad or depressed is a time when they should be prepared to "stay put" and not make any major decision.
The other dangerous time is when your child has had a string of "good luck" (i.e., when they are feeling "on top of the world" and everything is going right). These times can blind them into believing that they can do anything and it will turn out fine. Children need to involve parents in order to make clear-headed decisions in both instances. She says, "When they see our decision process, or better yet, when we ask them for their opinion, they get real life practice in a safe space."