Get Involved in Your Child's Life
Young people are much less likely to use drugs when they have positive activities to do and when caring adults are involved in their lives. Get involved in your child's life by participating in his activities (e.g., bring a snack for the soccer team, volunteer in your child's classroom, attend his recital or play, help with his science project) and praising his accomplishments. Your participation and encouragement tell your child that these activities are worthwhile and may help him identify and pursue other positive activities as he gets older.
Action Steps To Get Involved
- Spend at least 15 minutes a day in a "child-directed" activity (doing something your child wants to do). Experts say that doing something with your child for at least 15 minutes a day is essential to building a strong parent-child relationship. Examples of child-directed activities include:
- Reading a book your child chooses.
- Letting your child choose the menu and then cooking a meal together.
- Playing a game of your child's choice (she can even make up her own rules!).
- Working on a craft project your child chooses.
- It also may be as simple as talking with your child about a topic in which she is interested. Remember, 15 minutes is a suggested minimum. The more time you are able to devote to your child doing these kinds of activities, the better.
Identify at least one opportunity each week for you and your child to do something special together. Some possibilities include:
- Visiting the library.
- Going for a walk.
- Playing cards, board games, or video games.
- Searching on the Internet to learn about each other's interests.
- Going on a special outing, such as the park, playground, or ice cream stand. The important thing is that you spend time together and interact (just watching a TV show and not discussing the program doesn't count!). You may be surprised at how much these special activities can mean to your child.
Support your child's activities. For example, if your child plays sports, plan to attend as many practices and games as you can and model appropriate participant behavior! Praise your child's physical efforts and dedication to the sport.
Recognize good behavior consistently and immediately. Make the extra effort to "catch" your child "being good"; for example, doing the dishes or cleaning her room without being asked. Praise her for things you might ordinarily take for granted, such as getting up on time, helping to set the table, or finishing her homework without being asked. No one is ever too old to hear encouraging words or to get a hug or a "high five" for a job well done. Keep in mind, though, that children usually know when their effort has been less than their best. Choose words that are authentic:
|Way to go!||That's great||I'm proud of you|
|I think you have real talent||I can see that you really understand||I knew you could do it!|
|You are a natural||This is something that you can really||You've made real progress.|
|You are a quick learner. be proud of||Well done!||Congratulations|
|That part is perfect||That is a good solution||That is a whole new way of thinking about it|
|I can't wait to show this to ___||You are really creative||Good job|
|Very good||I like the way you did that|
Use meal times as opportunities to share news of the day or to discuss current affairs. In today's fast-paced world, many families find it difficult to come together at meal times. However, if family meals can be arranged, it is a great opportunity for interaction. Be aware, however, that this should be a time for positive discussion. It probably is not appropriate to discuss upsetting issues such as failing grades, bad news in the newspaper, or other upsetting topics. It is definitely not the time to fight with each other. Meal-time discussions can help your child value expression by encouraging passionate, but polite, exchanges. If it is difficult for your family to eat meals together, be creative in finding other times to have conversations with your child, such as during car rides.
Robert and Alia's Story
Most people don't believe 34-year-old Robert when he tells them he is a grandfather. His daughter Alia was born when he was 17. Robert didn't live with his daughter as she grew up, so being involved in her daily life was a challenge.
"It's really hard being a parent, especially if you don't live with your child. I couldn't see my child a lot because her mother and I weren't getting along. If I could do it over again, I would play a more active role in her life even though her mother and I didn't see eye to eye. For parents in that situation, I would tell them to be more concerned about the relationship with your child than what's going on between you and the mother or the father. I would say the most important thing is to try to be there for your child. One thing I realize now is that it did't always have to be a big thing, like going to the amusement park. We probably would have spent more time together if I didn't always feel like, "Wow, I've gotta do something special." Alia remembers the little things - like helping me wash the car. I mean, she counts that as one of her favorite memories."
Being Involved Helps You To Become Aware When Your Child Is Under Stress
Being young doesn't necessarily mean you are never unhappy or anxious. Young people often cite stress as a reason they use alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. Let's face it; young people today have to deal with issues such as:
- Changing family structures.
- Easy access to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.
- Lack of adult supervision.
- Lack of safe places to learn, play, and socialize.
- Lack of good role models.
- Peer pressure.
- Pressure to be sexually active
- Violence and gangs.
Some young people think that alcohol or illegal drugs will cheer them up, make them forget about problems they have, or make them feel part of the group.
Adults and children sometimes develop unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. How many times have we heard people say, "Boy, I could use a drink," as an antidote to stress? How many of us smoke tobacco to reduce stress? How many of us truly know how to deal with stress in healthy ways? Just like some adults, children need to learn how to deal with stress, how to make healthy decisions, and how to relax.
Children also need someone to help them through difficult times, someone to whom they can express their concerns and apprehensions without fear of rejection or recrimination. One of the most important things that can help children choose not to use alcohol and drugs is the love and support of at least one caring adult who helps guide them through the many phases of childhood.
|Low energy||Short attention span||Extreme hyperactivity|
|Anger||Fighting frequently||Being frustrated|
|Saying bad things about self||Not doing as told||Making different voices, grunts, growls, snorts, or reverting to baby talk|
How can you tell if your child is under stress?
Some signs of stress among young people include:
|Crying easily||Sulkiness||Detachment and unresponsiveness|
|Changes in eating habits||Mood swings||Defiance/rejection of authority|
|Drop in grades||Changes in personality||Changes in appearance and personal hygiene|
|Abusiveness to siblings||Backtalk|
How can you tellif YOU are under stress?
These symptoms may indicate that you are under stress:
|unresponsiveness to others||fearfulness||frequent illness|
|changes in eating habits||low energy||tension headaches|
|experience pain||fear, anger||feeling confused|
|desire to be alone more||upset often||abusiveness to others|
|rejection of advice||alcohol or drug abuse||constant worrying|
|feeling weary||mood swings||crying easily|
|changes in sleeping habits||irritability and short temper||feeling overwhelmed|
There are many ways to help reduce stress in a child's life
Allow your child to express her feelings and concerns.
Promote healthy eating, sleep, and exercise patterns during the early years so they become habits for a lifetime.
Teach your child relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and
sitting quietly for 10 to 20 minutes as a way to calm down or reduce stress
Set goals based on the child's abilities, not on your expectations.
Teach your child that it's okay to be angry, but it's also important to let the anger go.
Help your child express anger positively, without resorting to verbal or physical
Give your child a big hug before or after a stressful situation.
Establish a special time each day for just the two of you.
Show confidence in your child's ability to handle problems and tackle new challenges.
Get your child's input on how a stressful situation can be improved.
Help your child learn from mistakes.
Discuss his ideas. They may not always be realistic, but this exercise will help him develop problem-solving skills.
-- Let your child know that you also
Look at your own coping skills.
Are you setting a good example?
If you are or your child is experiencing symptoms of stress and you're not sure how to handle the situation, your doctor or a counselor could help.