How To Talk To Your Child About The Harms Of Drugs And Spot The Signs Of Substance Abuse, Parenting And Education News And Top Stories
As a social worker who has worked at Halfway House Teen Challenge for more than three years, Mr. Raymond Lee knows that the harms of substance abuse do not discriminate against age group.
A new report on juvenile delinquency highlights that while the drug situation in Singapore remains largely under control, the percentage of juvenile abusers here remains a cause for concern – 10 percent of all drug addicts arrested in 2020 were under the age of 20.
Lee, who primarily advises teens between the ages of 20 and 30, says parents can look out for signs of substance abuse as early as their teenage children.
“This is the phase when children and young people begin to explore their rights, what they can or cannot do,” explains the 41-year-old.
One of the easiest ways to identify a drug addict is to look in the eyes.
Mr. Lee says, “The person may struggle to keep it open.”
But at the other end of the spectrum, a drug addict can act and look unnaturally high, appear excited, and smile excessively even when in a “normal environment,” he adds.
He says families can help motivate young children and increase their self-esteem by keeping them away from drugs. “Empathy, not compassion, straighten up instead of lying down,” he says.
Mr. Lee himself uses a counseling technique known as Person-Centered Therapy (PCT). This approach, developed in the 1940s, is about identifying each of us as having the desire and ability for personal growth and change. “I can present myself as your friend. In this way they become more open and can share their inner thoughts. “
When it comes to starting a conversation about the harms of drugs with young children, “an early start is always better,” says Lee. But of course, parents know best if their children are mature enough to have this conversation.
Raising children through storytelling
For parents who find it difficult to bring up substance abuse with their children, Saifudin recommends starting storytelling. PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
For Saifudin Abdul Rahman, law enforcement officer at the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), parents can always casually chat about the dangers of drugs because “age is just a number”. He has two young children, ages five and eight.
As a long-time veteran at CNB, Saifudin’s job is to help former drug addicts reintegrate smoothly into society by getting them to share more about the everyday problems they face.
For parents who find it difficult to bring up the topic of substance abuse with their children, the 38-year-old recommends starting with storytelling. At home he tells his children stories of personal encounters from his professional life. For example, he once told them the heartbreaking story of a suspected drug addict who tried to stab his mother with a knife during a drug raid.
“Drug use can affect and change the state of mind,” added Mr. Saifudin.
Having met juvenile abusers who cite peer pressure as one of the reasons for drug use, he believes in having open conversations with children and knowing their friends.
In addition to real friends, the online world has also changed the way young people perceive drugs.
They spend a lot of time online now, especially on social media platforms where drug information is readily available.
Since it is not possible or practical to keep young people off the internet, parents can instead spend their time guiding their boys in dealing with the deluge of information – good, bad, and ugly.
Use “teachable moments” to fuel the conversation
To get started, it’s so easy to visit the CNB website, where parents can download the Drug Prevention Education Guide for Parents in four languages for free.
It contains useful tips on how to better discover and nurture a child’s hidden talents to avoid boredom. This is one of the main reasons young people turn to drugs.
It is also always important to help your children feel comfortable by offering praise and encouragement, involving them in regular conversations, giving them responsibility, feeling valued in the family, and simply being there for them in times of need .
Raymond Lee explains that families can help motivate young children and increase their self-esteem by keeping them away from drugs. PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Parents can also use “teachable moments” to stimulate the conversation, such as referencing news articles about celebrities arrested for substance abuse or dying of an overdose.
And once the conversation has started, the Drug Preventive Education Guide for Parents advises that parents stay open-minded and listen to what their children tell them without ever being confrontational or judgmental.
At home, you can do your part in keeping your child away from drugs by setting a role model and creating a trigger-free environment free of alcohol and cigarettes.
“We have the greatest influence on our children – the better we can network and participate in their overall development, the greater the chances that they will go the right way and move away from drugs,” says Saifudin.
“Parental involvement is essential as we are our children’s first teachers and we should remain their best teachers throughout their lives.”