Parent Resources from our School Counselors
KNOW! To Bust the Myths to Prevent Teen Prescription Drug Abuse
When it comes to talking to our children about the dangers of drugs, we tend to focus the conversation on illegal or “street” drugs. While those drugs are extremely dangerous and absolutely should be part of the conversation, we cannot forget to include the high risks involved with the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs. In fact, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S. and is profoundly impacting the lives of teens.
Parents can make a huge difference. In addition to following the three simple steps shared in the previous Know! Tip, KNOW!, SECURE, DISPOSE To Prevent Teen Prescription Drug Abuse, parents are encouraged to talk, and then talk some more with their children on this subject. Experts say children whose parents talk early and often about the dangers of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs in the first place. Unfortunately, only 22 percent of teens report having specific conversations on the topic of prescription drug abuse with their parents. With that in mind, many parents can take a simple, but monumental step toward prevention by starting these important conversations.
Do not feel like these talks have to be one-on-one, formal sit-downs. Talk in the car on the way home from school or seize the teachable moment when an ad for prescription drugs is aired during TV time. The perfect moment to talk is now. And when you do, be sure to share the facts that many teens don’t know:
Fact 1: Prescription drugs can harm us when they’re misused.
Fact 2: Prescription drugs can be addictive and have varying, harmful side effects. Use them only when you need them and as directed by a doctor.
Fact 3: Sharing your prescription, even with good intentions, is both dangerous and illegal. Prescription drugs are only safe when used at the correct dosage, by the person they have been prescribed for. Your medicines might interact harmfully with someone else’s medication, prove to be too much of a dose for that person, or otherwise harm that person.
When talking with your child on this topic, it is helpful to understand WHY young people abuse prescription drugs. The most common reasons reported by teens include:
To get high
To self-medicate (pain, anxiety, insomnia)
To improve academic or spots performance
To lose weight
To be daring or out of curiosity
The most misused and abused prescription drugs fall under three categories: opioids (relieve pain), depressants (ease anxiety and treat insomnia), and stimulants (increase attention and alertness).
It is typical for the same drug to be abused for different reasons. For example, boys are more likely to abuse stimulants to get high, while girls are more likely to abuse stimulants to lose weight or stay alert.
Remember, when used as intended, by the person they were prescribed for, prescription medications are usually safe and effective. However, when misused or abused, prescription medicines can be dangerous and even deadly. If you suspect or know your child is abusing prescription drugs, contact your family physician for guidance, direction, and next steps, or visit findtreatment.gov for a treatment facility near you.
In addition to securing medications in our homes and properly disposing of unused, unwanted and expired medicines, we can significantly decrease the odds of our children experimenting with these dangerous drugs simply by talking with them regularly and educating them on the misconceptions and high risks of prescription drug abuse.
Know! To Positively Connect with Your Teen
The desire to connect with others is universal, which is why social media has exploded over the years among people of all ages. When it comes to teens, just about everyone has at least one social media account to be able to connect with their “friends” at any given moment. A child’s virtual and in-person connections are important and highly influential in their lives, however, it cannot compare to the importance and influence of the parent-child connection—for better or worse. It’s the relationship between the parent or other caregiver and the child that serves as the backdrop of present and future interactions with others and highly impacts how young people make decisions. The parent-child relationship must be fostered and strengthened for healthy adolescent development.
Children whose relationships with their parents can be characterized as consistent, warm, kind, loving, and stable, are much more likely to: initiate positive social interactions with others, respond to situations with empathy, be cooperative with others, exhibit a higher self-esteem and make healthy life choices, including the decision not to use alcohol and other drugs.
How to Enhance Your Parent-Child Connection
Spend Time Together: Hanging out and having fun with your child is critical in building and fostering a close connection. Whether you get ice cream or spend an afternoon relaxing and watching movies at home, enjoy some “hang time” with your child.
Include Friends: What better way to get to know your child’s friends than bringing them along on a family outing or inviting them over for dinner? It’s also important to get to know their friends’ parents.
Listen: Put down your electronic devices and listen. Our kids want to be heard, and they want to feel like what they say matters to you. Listen attentively, then ask questions to show your interest.
Talk: Your child wants and needs to hear from you on a variety of topics, including mental wellness and substance use. Children whose parents talk early and often with them about not using alcohol and other drugs are 50% less likely to smoke, drink or use other substances in the first place.
Set Future Goals: Research shows that when youth set their sights on future goals, be it a position on a sports team or an academic scholarship, they make more careful choices.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It is important to both give respect to your child and insist on it from your child. This is an occasion where if you give, you are much more likely to receive.
Share Expectations: Most youth want to please their parents. Children whose parents set clear expectations are more likely to make better choices.
Eat Dinner Together: While it need not be anything fancy, studies show that sitting down together to share a meal and conversation strengthens family connections.
Adolescence is a time of many changes and big decision-making. Be sure to talk regularly, remain engaged in your child’s everyday life, and continuously strive to strengthen the connection. A strong and positive relationship now will serve you and your child both today and down the road.
Suicide & Self-Harm
Understandably, parents wonder what signs may signal potential thoughts of suicide or self-harm in their teenagers. At PVMS, we partner with Nationwide Children's Hospital and other mental health providers such as the Buckeye Ranch and Directions for Youth & Families to provide parents and students with support and resources on this topic.
If you have a child working through these issues - or if your child is in crisis - scroll to the Crisis Text Line PDF below for more info or text 4HOPE to 741741
Teen Drug & Alcohol Abuse
Abusing drugs and alcohol puts teens at risk in many ways. Not only is the body adversely affected but brain development is affected as well. Many times, drug & alcohol abuse can also be linked to suicidal ideation. The links below from DrugRehab.com by Advanced Recovery Systems contain very comprehensive, free information about the effects of drugs & alcohol on teens as well as a report on the link between suicide and drug/alcohol abuse. These are excellent resources for parents, many of which would be excellent frameworks for discussion with your teen.
Know! To STOP Sexting In Its Tracks
In the previous tip, Know! Your Child’s Risk for Sexting, we talked about the prevalence of teen sexting, the problems it can cause and the importance of making this topic a priority in your conversations with your pre-teens and teens. In this tip, we provide parents with ideas on taking those conversations beyond, “You better never…”
Sexting isn’t risk-free (as many teens may believe). Schools can only do so much to curtail such activity, which means it falls upon us, as parents and caregivers, to give our children a clear understanding of the dangers and consequences of sexting.
Here are some suggestions:
Get them talking about the topic by asking (in a non-confrontational way) what they know about sexting (keep in mind they may call it something different) and if they know of peers doing it
Remind them that messages and photos that are meant to be private can easily be shared, even through apps and such that claim privacy – there is no safeguarding an image or message once sent, as it can easily be received, copied and forwarded
Tell them that if they receive a sext to NEVER forward it or share with anyone – as it could be a violation of privacy laws or possibly be considered child pornography
Let them know that there are real scenarios of such images being forwarded and ending up on pornographic websites – causing real safety concerns for the females or males in the photos
Share with them the stories of young people who deeply regretted their decision to send inappropriate photos or videos of themselves and are now dealing with extreme social ridicule
Be clear on your expectations that they do NOT ever post or send any type of sexually-oriented content, as well as the consequences should this rule be broken
Monitor your teen’s phones and other electronic devices – it’s not an invasion of privacy, it’s your job
Make it a house rule that cell phones are collected before bedtime and charged in your room overnight (as nighttime is a popular time for sexting to occur)
Be actively engaged in your child’s daily life; talk with them regularly about your family’s values; help to build their self-esteem; and teach them about the importance of privacy, intimacy and above all, self-respect
While there is no guarantee that your child will steer clear of such activity, the greatest defense against teen sexting is a parent who communicates openly with their child to provide a clear understanding of the risks, who sets clear expectations and consequences and is actively engaged in their child’s daily life.
Sources: GuardChild.com: Teenage Sexting Statistics. Joseph Nowinski Ph.D. - Psychology Today: Teen Sexting: The Dark Side of the Web, Dec. 2015. The Atlantic: Why Kids Sext, Nov. 2014. TheSpruce.com: What is Sexting and Why is it a Problem, Feb. 2017