There are many ways to keep your family and friends drug free. Every family has expectations of behavior that are determined by principles and standards. These add up to “values.” Children who decide not to use alcohol or other drugs often make this decision because they have strong convictions against the use of these substances. These convictions are based in a value system. Social, family, and religious values give young people reasons to say no to drugs and help them stick to their decision to stay drug free.

Here are some ways to help make your family’s drug free values clear:

  • Communicate values openly. Talk about why values such as honesty, self-reliance, and responsibility are important and how values help children make good decisions. Teach your child how each decision builds on previous decisions as one’s character is formed, and how a good decision makes the next decision easier.
  • Recognize how your actions affect the development of your child’s values. Simply stated, children copy their parents’ behavior. Children, who see their parents smoke for example, are more likely to become smokers. Evaluate your own use of tobacco, alcohol, prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter drugs. Consider how your attitudes and actions may be shaping your child’s choice about whether or not to use alcohol or other drugs. This does not mean, however, that if you are in the habit of having wine with dinner or an occasional beer or cocktail you must stop. Children can understand and accept that there are differences between what adults may do legally and what is appropriate for children. Keep that distinction sharp however. Do not let your children be involved in your drinking by mixing a cocktail for you or bringing you a beer. Absolutely do not allow your child to have sips of your drink.
  • Look for conflicts between your words and your actions. Remember that children are quick to sense when parents send signals by their actions that it’s all right to duck unpleasant duties or to be dishonest. Telling your child to say that you are not at home because a phone call comes at an inconvenient time is, in effect, teaching your child that it is all right to be dishonest.
  • Make sure that your child understands your family values. Parents assume, sometimes mistakenly, that children have “absorbed” values even though they may be rarely or never discussed. You can test your child’s understanding by discussing some common situations at the dinner table. For example, “What would you do if the person ahead of you in line at the theater dropped a dollar bill?”

America is a long way from being drug free:

  • 60% of the world’s illegal drug market is in the U.S.A. (with 6% of the world’s population)
  • Over 20 million Americans use marijuana
  • An estimated 6 million Americans use cocaine
  • An estimated half million Americans use heroin
  • An estimated 13 million Americans are alcoholics
  • Almost 1/3 of Americans between ages 20 and 40 have used an illicit drug once in the past year
  • Almost 1/2 of Americans entering the work force have used an illicit drug once in the past year

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