This article was written by Lisa Sitwell and published by Home of Grace
As kids get older, protecting them from the hazards of peer pressure can be even harder than it was to keep them safe and healthy when they were small. Community, communication, and vigilance are the keys to keeping your kids away from addictive properties, as well as understanding how the adolescent brain works.
Cultivate a Healthy Relationship
Your kids are always listening, especially in those moments when you’re not trying to teach. You may need to research topics such as the hazards of video game addiction and just how common this addiction is becoming. In addition, you may want to review how you talk about those who abuse drugs, tobacco or alcohol. If your child hears that you think badly about addicts and addiction, they may not feel comfortable bringing their worries to you. If your child has a friend who’s engaging in unhealthy or addictive behaviors, how you react may push your child into behavioral patterns similar to their friend.
Be Aware of Early Warning Signs
How many hours does your child spend away from your house and where are they during this time? If your kids are always busy and you feel like a taxi driver, you may be doing your kids a huge favor. Unsupervised time can lead to experimentation, especially as the power of the peer group grows. The first steps toward addictive behaviors can start in a few unsupervised hours after school. Initially, they may look innocent. Things like vaping are popular with teenagers, but the chemicals it uses can be dangerous and could be a gateway to cigarettes and other addictions. It’s said that addiction is simply a habit of chasing the next high. As their bodies and brains adapt to the rush of the chemicals in vaping, they will automatically move up toward products that give them a bigger boost over time.
Understand the Adolescent Brain
When your sweet eleven-year-old becomes a sullen, sarcastic changeling, you are dealing with an adolescent brain. One of the greatest hazards of the adolescent brain is that this time of brain development has no concept of greys. Everything is black or white. For example, if your child has heard forever that drugs and alcohol are bad and can seriously damage their lives, they may believe the message whole-heartedly. However, they may one day go to a party and have a glass of beer or a hit off of a joint. If they get away with it and their lives don’t completely blow up, they are prone to deciding that the messages they’ve heard about drugs are completely wrong. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to bad decisions with other products that can limit their eventual brain function, put them in serious legal trouble and may even shorten their lives.
A simple way of getting your kids away from exposure to toxins they can’t handle and don’t understand is to be vigilant about getting them involved in adult-supervised activities. Events at your local church or museum lock-ins through the Boys and Girls Club as well as scouting events can help your child build social skills, connections and the ability to make good decisions.