Being a single parent is a tough job in so many ways. There is no taking turns, no giving a difficult task to the dad. You must bear the burden of all the challenges of raising your children. Of course, you also get all of the good stuff, but it can be hard to see that positive in the darker times. Drugs, alcohol, and addiction can be the cause of some of those dark episodes. Speaking to your kids about drugs and alcohol is not fun. They will roll their eyes and think you are worrying too much, but if it can avoid future problems, it is most definitely worth the effort. Here are some things to consider and some tips to help you keep your kids clean and safe:
- Spend time with your children. This seems like a no-brainer, but in today’s busy world, it is often easier said than done. Especially as a single parent, you are limited by work, chores, and attempts to carve out some time just for yourself. The truth is that the more quality time you spend with your kids, talking to them, getting to know them as they get older, and showing them that you care for and love them, the more likely they will be to make good choices about drugs and alcohol. As a bonus, the more time you spend with your kids and the more you talk to them about anything, the easier it will be to segue into a difficult conversation about saying no.
- Rely on others. Just because you are a single mom does not mean that you have to do every last thing yourself with respect to your children. If you have other trusted adults in your life who are close to your kids, bring them into the conversation. This could be your parents, your siblings, or even your closest friends. Having multiple adult role models can only benefit your kids. These adults can spend time with them and give them a different perspective while also modeling responsible behaviors and decision-making.
- Be direct, clear, and logical. There is no point in dancing around the topic. Your kids will appreciate a direct tone and clarity in what you expect from them. Share logical facts about drug and alcohol use, but also clearly communicate your values and how you feel about the topic.
- Encourage choices. To help raise your children into capable and responsible adults, you must teach them how to make good choices. You can only make their decisions for them for so long before they need to do it themselves. Begin the process by making sure they understand how to make good choices and that it is up to them to weigh their options and make the right decision in different situations.
- Remember to listen. Your talk about drugs and alcohol should not be solely a lecture. Allow your kids the chance to speak up. You might be surprised by what you hear. With an open and communicative environment, they will feel comfortable telling you things that you need to know. It is possible that they have already been exposed to things that you hope to shield them from, but which they now feel comfortable talking about. They will also begin to open up and share their feelings with you. Listen and learn and then continue the conversation without anger or judgment.
- Answer questions. Your conversation is likely to stir curiosity in your kids. Do not suppress it; rather encourage them to think about it and to ask questions. Do not be afraid to answer any question, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you. And if you don’t have the answer immediately, own up. Research the question and come up with an answer together. The information they get will be all the more powerful.
- Look for the signs. Whatever you do, do not put your head in the sand and ignore signs of drug or alcohol use or abuse in your kids. Even if it seems small, trust your instincts and jump on it right away. The potential consequences of ignoring it are just too terrible. You know your kids and when you see or hear (or even smell in the case of some drugs) something that seems off or different, pay attention.