RVA Parenting: Talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol

(WWBT) - It can be frightening if your child is doing drugs or alcohol, given the risks.

Dr. Martin Buxton, who specializes in addictions, says if you know your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, that might be the first sign that you might have a big problem.

"Parents that know their child is using drugs, which means your child is already an addict, an outlier. Many adolescents as a right of passage, unfortunately, are going to use substances as part of their world. When parents, schools, and police know about it, that means that child is using and abusing an amount of the drug."
He says knowing your family history is key. If you have a family history of addiction, your child is at greater risk. When drugs or alcohol starts taking over behavior, school performance, or family relationships, Dr. Buxton says, it's time for an intervention.

He says to watch what your child is wearing and who he or she is spending time with. He also recommends checking your child's social media accounts.
"If you want to know what your child is doing, look at their peer group," Buxton says. "Who is your child hanging with? This will tell you who they are the most comfortable with and what their social life is about."
If your child is wearing advertisements or symbols for alcohol or drugs, or if your child or his or her friends are talking about them, then it's important that your family has a talk about what to do next.  Your first instinct is probably to protect your child at all costs, but how you act here could have real consequences.

" Most times, parents want to jump in and rescue a child," Buxton said. "It's the parental instinct. If I was in trouble, you try to get them out of trouble.
What appears to work best for children who are struggling with a problem, is to have consequences. It means that the parents have to sit back and allow the consequence to fall so it has an impact on the child. There are many parents who can not do that. They end up rescuing that child, and unfortunately, that plays into the continuance of the problem."

Dr. Buxton says the recovery is incredibly difficult.  Your child has to be ready to make tough choices, like finding a new group of friends, or staying at home rather than going out to avoid the problem.

If you're not sure what to do, you can always talk to your pediatrician or school counselor for tips on where to get help.

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