Teens, drugs, drink and peer pressure
* Drugs - With recent research by charity Drugscope finding that ecstasy tablets are selling for as little as 50p each and government statistics showing that 39% of 15 year olds had used illegal drugs in the last year, your teen is bound to come into contact with drugs.
Facing such realities square on rather than burying your head in the sand will give your teen a stronger backdrop with which to make the right choices.
Having the “drugs conversation” is important. Research shows teens that feel they can talk openly about drugs with their parents are less likely to try them, or try them later on (when perhaps they will do so more carefully). Part of this may be due to an increased sense of family unity that raises their confidence not to bend to peer pressure to use drugs. It's interesting that further research found 91 per cent of teens thought the government should do more to protect them from drink and drugs!
To ensure your drugs conversation gets off on the right foot, first off get your self informed. Check out www.talktofrank.com for up-to-date information. If you sound as if you know what’s out there your teen will take you more seriously.
Next, be calm when raising the issue. Choose a moment when you actually have time to let the conversation flow and neither you nor your teen feel stressed.
Consider using a soap story-line to bring up the conversation.
Such chats should become part of a repertoire of difficult subjects that you begin to talk freely about allowing your teen to feel at ease talking about with you.
Acknowledge the fact that for some people taking drugs may make them "feel good" but that there are many ways to get a natural high and encourage them to find those. Many teens get great pleasure from doing things like urban street dance classes or DJ mixing sessions. If they can find what gives them a high there are less likely to take drugs.
Emphasise the fact that no one can predict who will have a bad drugs reaction and that this is a risk you do not want them to take.
Encourage them to check out www.thesite.org to see various peer group conversations about issues like drugs.
Keep aware of your teen’s moods. If they become erratic, or depressed, if money goes missing, if they start looking after themselves, these are all signs they made be on drugs.
You can ring the National Drugs Helpline (0800-776-600); AdFam (020-7928-8898); Drug Concern (020-8681-8113). Also talk to your GP about local drugs services.
* Drinking - parents find concerns over drinking particularly hard to deal with considering alcohol is legal for the over 18s. Generally speaking 16 and 17 year-olds find it very easy to get served too. This makes the case for only drinking on, e.g., family occasions, harder to make. The most important thing you can do is set a good example with your own up drinking. Also introducing you're children to sensible drinking, e.g., where they get a small glass of wine or beer on family occasions so it's a positive example.
As with drug concerns, keeping an open dialogue about drinking in moderation and being able to say No to the pressure to get drunk will help your child.
When they go to parties ensure other parents supervise them. Don't be fobbed off by your teen saying there will be supervision, you have the right to ring the parents at the home where the party's taking place to ensure they will be there.
If your child comes home drunk, rather than rage at them, have sensible conversation with them the next day. Ground them from the next party and explain why they're having that privilege taken away.
If your child repeatedly comes home drunk then seek help from your GP for adolescent alcohol counselling. Take repeated incidence of drunkenness seriously, and by catching it early you may be able to get them back on the right track.
* Peer pressure - All teenagers come up against peer pressure. Even adults come up against pressure at work and from friends so you can expect more of this for your teen. Peer pressure takes many forms from more subtle coercion, to daring each other to do things, to actual bullying.
It's important to discuss peer pressure with your teen and talk about the various forms it might take from pushing curfew boundaries, to the pressure to shoplift, take drugs, drink, and have sex amongst other things. When discussing such scenarios are asked them how they might handle it. By getting them to think of the responses they could use against peer pressure you’ll help promote their confidence.
An important antidote to peer pressure is encouraging individuality in your teen. The stronger their self-belief, the more confident they’ll be in the face of peer pressure to conform.
* Body piercings/tattoos - With everyone from movies stars to football players having tattoos and piercings your teen is likely to at least go through a stage where they want some.
As with all such discussions explore what exactly it is they want and why. Asked them to go through a cooling-off period of a couple weeks for den to be reconsidered. Then try giving them some leeway on an area like the clothes they choose so you've got more leeway to say No to more extreme trends like piercings and tattoos. You could also allow them to try it Temporary tattoos for fun.
Finally tattoos are against the law for anyone under 18 and a reputable tattoo parlour will make them show ID.
A useful general contact is www.parentlineplus.co.uk