Kid Safety Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Raising Drug-Free Kids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I started to write this by saying “the conversation you have with your kids about drugs is one of the most difficult and most important you’ll ever have.”

That’s inaccurate.

To really have an impact on your kids about drugs, it can’t be a single conversation. It has to be multiple conversations over a period of years. And it can’t just be conversations about not doing drugs. It needs to be a consistent parenting effort in which you help your children understand their power to make choices and their responsibility to accept the consequences of their choices – and to be able to make the connection between the two. And it also requires raising your kids in a way that they know they’re loved and valued as individuals, that they’re given a voice, and that you are the safe people in their lives. And you can do all that and they still may end up experimenting with drugs or becoming addicts, because no matter how great we are as parents, our kids have other influences in their lives – friends, school, other adults, other family, etc.

Which is why your best effort in keeping your kids drug free starts when they are just toddlers and younger. It’s when your children are in the infant and toddler stage that you set boundaries and teach kids about making good choices; it’s at this young age that you have the most influence and opportunity for impact.

Here are 4 things you can do to help keep your kids on a drug-free path:

Communicate – All the Time

Talk, and talk often. If you keep the lines of communication open, then discussing drugs can be an ongoing effort. Learn how to talk to your children but more importantly, learn how to listen to your children. Serious discussions take place over time and work best when built upon a foundation of mutual trust.

Show Affection and Respect

Show affection for your kids, openly and unabashedly. Tell them you love them, every day. Praise them for who they are, not just things they do. This is important when your kids are young and building self-esteem; it becomes even more important as they get older and become teenagers. Teens are competing for the approval of their peers; it helps a lot when they know they already have the approval of their parents. If your child does not feel accepted or loved by you, they may seek that approval elsewhere from peers who might be doing drugs or using alcohol.

Don’t Be Naive

Know that no matter how “good” your child is or how great their grades are, they will have access to and exposure to drugs – at school, in the community, at the homes of friends. You cannot isolate your kids from drugs, so you have to make them strong enough and secure enough to be ok saying no. Children crave boundaries and rules so that they feel safe. Even when they are testing you at every point, they’re really just making sure you’re still going to enforce the rules and protect them. Be clear with them that doing drugs is not acceptable, and that there will be consequences.

Give them an Out

Help your kids get out of sticky moments. When I was a teenager, my mom always told me if something was happening that I didn’t know how to handle, to call her and ask her to pick me up and to tell her I had a headache. We’ve told our kids the same – feign being sick if you can’t just say no; call us, no questions asked if you need to get out of someplace.

Worried your child might be taking drugs? Be alert to changes in your child’s behavior, including any changes in appetite, a decline in grades, or feelings of apathy. Drug use may cause your child to become more withdrawn, less inclined to engage in family activities, and more likely to be overly sensitive. If your child does need professional help with overcoming a drug problem, contact a rehab center where they can help your child or teen work through and overcome a drug problem. For more information about keeping kids drug free, we recommend the following resources:

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids


Have a resource you’d like to see on this list? Let us know!

Kid Safety Parenting

Is Your Teen an Addict?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Every time I accidentally get exposed to the news – local or national  – I hear about the drug epidemic. Opioids are killing people in record numbers. Kids and adults alike are addicted to prescription pain killers, and heroin, which might just be the nastiest drug of them all, has made a roaring comeback. It would have been easy to ignore, had it not been for a close family member who nearly died dealing with a harrowing drug addiction that made me realize anyone can be a victim – even a middle class, well-educated, privileged young person with everything ahead of her. I am grateful that she was able to escape the grip of the drug, but what I am learning is that you are never truly free of the vice. It’s a constant, daily fight to remain sober. Often, the addiction wins, and the person goes back to the drug. Or overdoses and dies from it.

There are ways to make a difference. Advocate policy change, for one. Make rehab more accessible and affordable. Provide supports for the transition back into society. Stop punishing people for having this horrible disease.

As parents, we have the toughest job. We must remain vigilant, even when we’re exhausted. We must set the right example by not over-indulging ourselves. And we must recognize addiction and drug use as soon as it happens. We must not be embarrassed about the fact that our child is addicted or try to keep it a secret but instead enlist the help of the whole world to help.

How Do I Know if My Teen Is an Addict?

There are signs that parents might deny or ignore, but these 5 telltale signs should be cause for alarm:


1. Drug Paraphernalia

Teen behavior is hardly definitive proof of addiction, since their hormones and development cause unpredictable behavior without chemical intervention. But you should never ignore evidence of paraphernalia such as hypodermic needles, “kits,” or boxes containing belts, spoons, and other heroin materials, or even bottles or bongs. And never buy the excuse “I was just holding it for a friend.”

2. Reclusive Behavior

All teens become a bit reclusive in an effort to develop independence. But if your teen secludes themselves for days at a time or stays at a friend’s house for more than 48 hours without cause, it may be a sign that they are trying to hide abuse of some kind.

3. Unusual Behavior at School

Falling and rising grades are a staple of troublesome teen years. However, a sharp drop in school performance or reports of unusual behavior from teachers or counselors can be important signs of addiction.

4. Pawning Valuables – Yours or Theirs

Addicts, including teens, will do anything to get the next fix, including selling their own valuables or someone else’s. If items continuously go missing or your teen sells their prized possessions without cause, consider questioning your teen on who these items are being sold to and why.

5. Physical Symptoms of Addiction

Weight loss, skin changes, and skin infections can all be signs of addiction. Yes, they can also be signs of being a teenager, but accompanied by other evidence, don’t wait. Don’t waste time. And don’t worry about pissing off your kid. Get them tested, get them in treatment, and save their lives.

If your child is an addict, there are resources available. Don’t try to deal with it alone. Enlist family,  friends, therapists, addiction counselors, and your physician to help. Addiction can be overcome,  but it’s a lifelong journey.