It’s the holiday season and here at Parent Up, we are intentionally celebrating the joy, creativity, and resilience of area youth. We also celebrate YOU, the parents, guardians, and other caring adults who are following along, learning, listening, and taking action, even when it isn’t always easy.
With the threats of deadly fentanyl, new discreet nicotine products, and the now-more-available-than-ever potent-THC packed cannabis posing risks to young brains, Parent Up is rounding out the year with some encouragement and tried-and-true tips for keeping our kids merry and bright now and all year long:
- Set no-use expectations when it comes to vaping, alcohol, marijuana, and other substances.
Teen substance use harms the developing brain and puts youth at higher risk for mental health problems and addiction throughout life. Let’s ensure kids know we care about their health and well-being, and that’s why we want them to stay drug-free. You can do this without threatening by saying something like, “I really care about your health and safety, and I don’t want you risking that by vaping or using marijuana. Your brain is not done growing so it’s even more important at this time in your life that you don’t use any drugs like alcohol, nicotine, unprescribed pills, or marijuana.” Or something like this, “Friends around you might tell you that drugs or alcohol help with that, but I really care about you and want you to not use alcohol, vapes, or any marijuana to protect you now and in the future.”
- Be curious and keep the dialogue about substances open.
Ask kids what they think or have heard about alcohol, vaping, marijuana, and other drugs. Be curious and open-minded about their experiences. It’s more important – and effective– to listen and discuss rather than to lecture. Ask them questions about what they think about marijuana. Ask them what they know or what they’ve heard about vaping at school or from friends. Finding out what our teens know and think about substances first helps us know where to start our conversations. Use “teachable moments” to start conversations too. Use public service announcements, stories on the news, TV plot lines, pop culture or current issues at school or in the community to spur on your conversations.
There’s an important second part to this advice: Let kids know they can come to you or other trusted adults for help with peer pressure, stress, or anxiety. Kids need to hear that their well-being is a priority and that they have options for relief other than taking matters into their own hands.
- Prepare kids for peer pressure.
Help youth gain confidence to say “no” to alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs by practicing scenarios and brainstorming what they might say if they’re offered to them. “What do you do if you are in a social setting and you’re uncomfortable with what is happening?” Or ask, “What if someone is offering you something — what are you going to say?” Practice this with teens, even if they groan at you and don’t want to do it. Even if you don’t get them to say the words, if you can say the words and at least put them in their brain, they will be more likely to use that strategy when the moment comes. We also recommend teens memorize the phone numbers of two trusted adults so they always have someone to call to get out of an uncomfortable situation, even if their phone is dead.
Watch for early signs or symptoms of substance use.
As parents and caregivers, we know our kids best so if something seems off, we should take action. General early signs of substance use could include: Changes in appearance, changes in friend groups, grades dropping, and/or secretive behavior. Find more specific early warnings signs for underage drinking, marijuana use, teen vaping, and prescription drug misuse on our Drug Topics page. If you need help for your child and are worried your child may be using alcohol or other drugs, the Partnership to End Addiction can help.
Our kids are more resilient and better off with your support. We wish you well this holiday season and into the new year.
– The Parent Up Team