Do you have reason to believe your child or teen is abusing drugs and alcohol? Find out about the different actions schools and parents can take.
A parent’s natural instinct is to protect, nurture and guide their children. But we cannot prevent them from being subjected to external pressures and influences beyond our control.
It is important to educate young people early on, both at home and school, about the dangers of drugs and addiction. This enables young people to develop a sense of responsibility and awareness. It also equips them to make the right decisions if they are exposed to drugs.
The role of the school
Schools can help by encouraging a safe, caring and nurturing environment in which pupils can discuss the different types of drugs and the consequenecs of taking them. They can invite speakers to talk about how drug addiction has affected them and their family’s lives.
It’s easy to provide references like literature or websites to pupils for further information and support. Even better, schools can offer pupils access to an addiction therapist, who they can approach and talk to in total confidence. If all teaching staff have received training on the signs of drug taking, as well as its physical and mental impact, they can recognise someone in need, which is the first step to giving them help.
Zero tolerance drugs policy
In this respect, a zero tolerance drugs policy enforced by many schools does not help the pupil. It is understandable given the criminality implied, but in effect it simply transfers the problem from the school to elsewhere.
If a pupil can come forward in confidence, knowing they will not be punished for their honesty and will receive guidance, then a drug policy and procedure can be devised. This can be done in collaboration with the school, parents, trained professional and, most importantly, the pupil themselves. Addressing why they are using drugs should be the primary concern, this may help them find a less destructive way of coping.
Parents suspecting drug use must remain calm and supportive. Do not get angry and reprimand the child nor go into denial that there is a problem. Avoid threatening questions and try to establish a strong and trusting bond by spending time with them.
Where to find support
Most young people trust their parents and will hopefully follow any guidance or support offered. However, as teenagers become more independent, communication may be more challenging. This does not mean you should give up. Try to find out the best way to support them. Don’t pressurise them so that they shut down and withdraw from family life.
The media give the impression that drug-taking is common. It isn’t, so be strong in your concerns, and confident in finding out what is wrong. Young people take drugs for many reasons, to experiment, because of social peer pressure or ‘to have fun’. They may also be using drugs to escape problems at school or home. It’s paramount to keep an open dialogue to ensure you get to the root of the problem and find a way to work through it together. If this is unsuccessful, reach out to a professional service which is experienced in supporting young people, as GPs are often not sufficiently trained to deal with such issues.