Parents may have more influence on their children than they think. In some cases this is good news, but for those parents more concerned about having a good time themselves, or those working through their own addiction or mental health issues, this can pose quite a challenge.
Exposing Kids to Drug Abuse
Take for example, the woman from the Midwest who was convicted and sentenced this week for contributing to her son’s drug overdose death. This mother used drugs herself and taught her son to do marijuana, crack cocaine, and heroin, even going so far as to inject the heroin into her son’s arm. The boy overdosed last year, and the mother will spend 8 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision for this crime.
As disturbing as this story sounds, there are many other parents that knowingly contribute to their child’s drug use. Some of these parents don’t want to grow up themselves, so they let their kids join in on their drinking parties or drug abuse. They may feel like they are bonding with their kids, or getting them to be more open about teenage drug use. Some parents tell themselves they’d rather have their kids doing these kinds of things at home with parents watching instead of on the streets or at friends’ houses. Some parents even think that seeing their young kids on drugs is funny or entertaining.
Setting a Good Example
Parents need to avoid sending mixed messages to their kids, and need to set a good example for them. Parents should actually consider themselves the most powerful anti-drug there is for their kids. The newest studies show that teens are actually more responsive to their parent’s positive or negative influence when it comes to drugs and alcohol than they are to friends or school programs. Therefore, if a parent, even unintentionally, is sending the message to their kids that recreational drug use or drinking and driving is ok, their children will get that message loud and clear. Parents should be firm in their talks with their teens about avoiding drugs, and they should remember that kids learn the good and the bad from watching their parents’ examples.
Parenting sometimes feels like a tough enough job in general, and being such a big influence adds a lot of pressure. After all, we all mess up sometimes too, even when we would rather be the ideal example. Parents need to remember that their main job is to raise healthy, productive children. It may not seem like fun to be so straight-laced but it pays off in the long run. Put the alcohol away for a while, or quit the occasional drug use so that you can set a good example. Parents that don’t think they can do this, or that have a problem with addiction or mental illness, like the Midwestern woman, must get professional help. These parents cannot do it on their own. It is better to admit a problem and get help than cause long-term adverse effects on your kids.