The Opioid Epidemic—How to Keep Your Child from Becoming a Statistic

Kid looking at an iPad
Annie Spratt

Sadly, teens are one of the fastest growing segments of opioid abusers. And while no family is immune from our nation’s opioid epidemic, there are precautions you can take.

How to Keep your Child from Becoming a Statistic in the Opioid Epidemic

You need a strategy. Two important components of any drug safety strategy include limiting exposure and building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your kids.

Limit Exposure

Be intentional about keeping opioids in a secure location where your children cannot access them, either accidentally or intentionally. If your kids visit relatives using prescription opioids, respectfully ask them to store their medications away in a safe place.

Get rid of prescription painkillers you no longer need. Don’t toss them in the garbage or flush them down the toilet. Your doctor or pharmacist can dispose of them properly.

Know the Company Your Teen Keeps

Check out the company your children keep and steer them away from those who might lead them astray. Some parents feel that guiding friend choices is off limits. It’s not. It’s what responsible parents do.

1 Corinthians 15:33 reminds us, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” As parents, we can practically pass along biblical wisdom by discussing what makes a good friend. Ask about their current social set. Are their friends responsible individuals? Do they use drugs or drink? Do they make other poor choices?

As a parent, you have the right and the privilege of helping your kids learn and exercise discernment about friends.

Talking with your Kids About Drugs

As parents, we have more influence on our kids than anyone else. That is, unless we abuse or relinquish our influence to others. We can use our influence to help kids understand the dangers associated with drugs.

When you hear about professional athletes and celebrities caught up in drugs, take the opportunity to discuss the consequences.

If your child participates in sports, help him understand how drug use can harm his abilities and lead to suspension. If he has academic aspirations, explain how drug runs counter to scholastic achievement and jeopardizes his dreams for her future.

And definitely let your kids know about the dangers of drugs to both mind and body.

Mind

Help your kids realize the mind is a precious gift from God. It separates humans from every other living thing. It’s how we exhibit the image of God. And, it’s with a healthy mind we can pursue peace, joy, and the abundant life.

The brain is the physical equipment our mind uses to function properly, so we need to take care of our brains by avoiding any toxins—e.g., drugs—that can poison and corrupt our minds.

Body

Obviously, drugs harm the body and there is a very real danger of overdose and death from opioids, especially street drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil. Experimenting with these drugs can be fatal.

Creating Open Lines of Communication

Maximize the influence you have in your child’s life by keeping communications open. Here are a few pointers.

Value Relationship Over “Good Behavior”

Think of our relationship with God. He values both relationship and righteous behavior, but when we mess up He doesn’t toss us out. He remains our Father and loves us in spite of our faults.

However communication with our children often sends the message we’re more concerned with their obedience than our desire for a loving relationship.

Be an Example of Health, Self-control and Good Decision-making

Hypocritical behavior undermines your influence. Think beyond opioids or drugs or alcohol. What are they hearing from you about substances like tobacco? Do they see you overusing caffeine? Overeating? Of course, other sins such as porn, foul language, gossip, tantrums, or hateful attitudes all undermine your influence and credibility.

Provide Plenty of Affirming Feedback

Give your kids genuine positive comments about who they are, and why and how they are special. They can never hear these things enough.

Be the person they would want to emulate. Cultivate in yourself a character that is positive, mature, and joyful. When you do, they will seek your guidance and thoughtfully consider your advice.

Give them Skills

Strong lines of communication put you in a good position to help your children deal not only with drugs but other struggles, too.

Decision-making

God gives us brains to make good choices. 1 Corinthians 2:16 assures His family members have “the mind of Christ.”

An important aspect of decision-making is to reduce the influence of emotions in the process. Think of a court of law. Juries are comprised of people selected because they’re not emotionally involved in the case. In a similar way, we need to teach our children to make decisions based on biblical wisdom and facts, not simply emotions.

Emotional Management

Emotions aren’t bad in themselves—they can be a great warning system. But they need to be managed.

Be an example, by thinking out loud as you process situations and come up with decisions. Help your kids feel their emotions, identify them, and handle them well. This is also an important aspect of dealing with stress and conflict.

Assertiveness

Encourage your kids to share their thoughts about issues. God tells us to come to Him with our needs and thoughts, and our children should feel safe to do the same with us. In this way our kids will learn to respectfully speak their minds, stand up for what’s right, and have the power to resist what is wrong.

Karl Benzio, MD, is a psychiatrist and member of the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family. Dr. Benzio is founder and director of the Lighthouse Network (844-543-3242), a helpline and resource for people dealing with addictions and mental health issues, and Honey Lake Clinic, a residential addiction and mental health treatment program in Greenville, Florida.
© 2018 by Karl Benzio. Used with permission.

Next in this Series: The Opioid Epidemic—How to Recognize Red Flags

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