Few parents fully understand the power that they wield in keeping their children alcohol and drug free. Dads, in particular, tend to “disengage” themselves from the family picture, absorbing themselves in work and leaving family dinners, school functions and outings largely to Mom.
But consider this: Teens in a two-parent family are 68 percent more likely than other teens in a similar family configuration to use drugs and alcohol if the relationship with Dad is perceived by the child to be “fair” or “poor.” Even those teens living in a single parent household with Mom fare better in abstaining from substances if the parent-child relationship is good.
What is more, it seems that there are plenty of teens who perceive their relationship with Dad to be less than desirable. In an extensive survey conducted on teens by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), 71 percent of teens cite an excellent or very good relationship with Mom, while only 58 percent describe their relationship with Dad to be as good. And of those teens who state that they have resisted using marijuana, twice as many credit Mom for this decision.
The survey results suggest that teens consider Mom more approachable, too. Almost four times as many teens discuss drugs with Mom than with Dad, and more than twice as many find it easier to talk to Mom than with Dad when it comes to the topic of drug use.
Various studies have revealed that Dad’s attitude about drugs and alcohol makes a big difference in whether a teen uses substances. More fathers than mothers expect that their child will use drugs eventually. This attitude of resignation may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, since those teens who refrain from drug use often cite parental disapproval or disappointment as a more important reason to abstain from substances than even legal consequences.
What can Dad do to increase the chances that his child won’t succumb to drugs and alcohol? Here are some ideas:
- Build a strong bond with your child. Take time to listen to him and ask him about interests, friends, and activities as well as thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns. Spend time enjoying one another’s company. Attend school events and recreational activities. Eat as many meals together as a family as possible.
- Build self-confidence in your child. Nurture talents and interests, and help your child to build an identity based upon them. Encourage healthy activities and foster opportunities to assist your child in helping others.
- Be a good role model. Set positive examples for dealing with stress. Let your child see you de-stress with physical activity or meditation rather than alcohol or cigarettes.
- Talk with your child about drugs. Set clear “no drug” rules, limit TV and Internet time, and know her friends and her friend’s parents. Know where she is and whom she is with.