Friday, April 16th, 2021

Keeping kids healthy starts with the parents

Posted: Friday, January 22, 2016

Article submitted by Kelly Sickafoose

This time of year, many people talk about health and wellness. These conversations should pertain to youth as well. Parents and educators play a critical role in motivating youth to avoid alcohol, tobacco and drug use while at the same time increasing healthy behaviors like regular physical activity, getting an adequate amount of sleep, eating nutritious foods, and controlling stress. Discussions could include the benefits of being physically fit and strong, and how substance use interferes with goals they have set.

Young people are being exposed to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs at an alarmingly early age. Accepting this as an indisputable fact is the first step in keeping our children substance-free. State and national surveys show that substance use begins as early as age ten. Many experts agree that children should know the difference between taking drugs prescribed by their doctor and administered by a parent or trusted adult to heal sickness versus taking any type of drug from anyone else by the time they attend first grade.

The research on substance use among youth indicates many internal and external factors contribute significantly to predicting early and problematic use of alcohol and drugs among youth. Internal factors include social norms (the perception that “everyone” is using), self-regulation skills (setting and achieving pro-social goals), and modeling from friends, family, and peers both in-person and as seen in the media. External factors include monitoring youth social experiences outside the home, and easy access to substances.

Research also shows that youth with authoritative parents have the lowest levels of drug and alcohol abuse. They also have better self-regulation, more confidence, and better social skills. Authoritative parents are loving but firm, warm, responsive, and empathetic, and they also make age-appropriate demands. They are attuned and responsive to their kids’ feelings, and they calmly set limits. The greatest drug and alcohol use seems to be linked to permissive parenting (loving but not firm enough), and absent parenting (not being present or being indifferent).

Regular family dinners are a prime opportunity for parental engagement. While the food is what brings families to the table, the significance of the family meal is something bigger; it’s about parents and children engaging in conversation, making connections, and strengthening bonds. Although dinnertime can be stressful and challenging, sitting across from your children at the kitchen table, sharing a meal while talking with them and actively listening to them to show you care about what’s happening in their world is of incredible value and worth – for children and parents.

You may feel like there’s very little you can do to stem the tide of substance use, but your children are listening and they will hear you. Inundate them with positive messages about their role in the community and about the benefits and advantages of staying substance-free. Get involved in helping children make the right choices.

For more information, please visit us on Facebook at Local Anti-Drug Coalition Efforts - LACE.