Setting a Good Example: How to Protect Your Kids
At the rate kids are growing up these days, it seems like 12 is the new 15. And no matter how much you try to protect them and shield them from the bad stuff in the world, it's inevitable that your children are going to be exposed to alcohol and drugs at some point in their adolescence. While this is a bone-chilling realization for most parents, it's a reality that must be faced, because prevention through education is a much better alternative than having to seek treatment for a problem. So where do you start?
Educate your Kids
Most kids are a lot savvier about the ways of the world than adults often give them credit for. In trying to shield them, you end up avoiding the tough conversations that may actually give them the information they need to make the right decisions when you're not there to guide them. Kids need to know that dependency and addiction are diseases, like cancer or diabetes. And if it runs in their family, they're more likely to get it. If you're not comfortable having the conversation with your child, you can ask your pediatrician to do it with you.
Be the Role Model
Parents everywhere are afraid of having their children fall in with the wrong crowd. You monitor their friends and watch for suspicious behaviors, telling them not to bend to peer pressure, without realizing who their primary role models are. Parents model everything in their kids' lives -- intimacy, relationships, diet and exercise, and habits, which includes alcohol and pill consumption. Kristina Wandzilak, the intervention specialist featured on the TLC show "Addicted," says she gets asked a lot about how to protect kids from alcohol and drugs, and that she has an unpopular answer. Look at how your habits are informing your children. If you drink every day at your home, or have alcohol at every event or function, you can't really be surprised if your children also choose to recreate with alcohol. This isn't an accusation that you have a problem with alcohol. But it's important to know that it's a habit that you're demonstrating as socially acceptable to your children, which will ultimately inform their choices.
Wandzilak recommends asking your kids what they see in regards to your habits with pills or alcohol. This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do because you may not want to hear the answers, but it's important to listen to what your child says. This will likely be an indicator of your child's view of his or her own relationship with alcohol and/or pills. It's important to open your eyes and not think it won't happen to you. It doesn't matter if you live in the "right" neighborhood, or your kids go to the "right" school. It's not a moral issue and has nothing to do with your income bracket. Your kids will be exposed to these experiences no matter what setting they live in, and if they don't learn about them from you, then they will learn from someone else.