Drugs and alcohol have been around forever and are not going away any time soon. They are a part of our culture and, to most, seem like a right of passage for teenagers. Some parents have the view that they know their children are going to experiment during their teenage years and they keep their fingers crossed, hope for the best and also hope their kids don’t make stupid mistakes or take things too far. Some might recall their own experiences as a teen with drugs and alcohol and say, “I turned out okay so they should be okay too.” But how many of you have seen the recent attention paid to heroin overdoses? I know I’ve seen many news specials and other public service announcements of parents talking about their seemingly typical teen dying from a heroin overdose.  And many of these kids are typical teens from typical families. So what can we as parents do to keep our kids safe while also allowing them to become their own individual people who makes their own smart choices? Parents want to give their kids advice and keep them from harm but also give them their independence. Teens also want to be kept from harm but it is not as high a priority for them as it is for their parents. Teens are risk takers and genuinely believe nothing bad will happen to them.

Parents, the truth is, you do have influence over your teen’s decision making, however, most of the influence started well before the teenage years even started. If you are raising children who are self confident and with a good code of ethics and morals, they are less likely to be influenced by their peers when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

Does your teen have goals for her own future? Does she realize there is more to life than “feeling good?” If so, she is most likely a teen who puts less importance on drugs and alcohol and more on making herself feel good in healthier ways.

It is important to remember that what you say to your teen is not as important as what you show to your teen about how you live your life and what priorities and principles you have for yourself.

It is necessary for you as a parent to make a decision for yourself of where you stand on drug and alcohol use. Many do not mind if their 17 year old has a beer or occasionally smokes marijuana. Others have a zero tolerance policy and have made their teens aware of this. Decide what you are willing to live with, not necessarily how much or how often they do it. Tell your children of your own family’s policy. Start by telling them you do not want them to drink or use drugs and then, what you tell them is from your own individual beliefs. It is important to be clear with your children from the beginning of what is and is not tolerated and what the consequences will be if they go over the line. One more word of caution, try not to be too preachy or present a scarier picture than what is warranted or you risk breaking their trust in your credibility.