For parents, there is no shortage of advice on how to keep our families healthy – buy the right kinds of food, plan the right activities, limit your child’s Internet and cell phone use … the list goes on and on! As a single working mom, I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by all the “tips” out there. And while I hate to add to your to-do list, as a police officer who served as a D.A.R.E. officer, I have one more piece of advice for you: Stay informed on the research that’s out there, and talk to your teens about issues such as medicine abuse. For example, the Monitoring the Future survey was recently released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This study surveys teenagers from all over the country on their behaviors and attitudes when it comes to drug, alcohol, and abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing dextromethorphan. It is a distressing look into the world of today’s teens, but studies like this remind us how important it is to have conversations with our families. I encourage you to mention OTC cough medicine abuse in particular because these medicines are easy for teens to access; teens often think they can “get away” with abusing them.
You might be wondering if it’s actually possible to bring up topics like this without your children rolling their eyes and saying “Yeah, whatever.” But I believe it is possible. Here are my best tips for talking to your teens about health news and healthy living in general:
Use research as a starting point: If you hear a news story or read about a new trend, ask your children what they think about it. Whether it’s child obesity, drug abuse or sexting, you can show your children that their opinions are important to you by asking if they’ve seen these behaviors among their friends and how they handle them.
Keep an open dialogue: Once you’ve heard what your children think, assess their answers and give them more ideas, such as saying no to unhealthy behaviors, leaving the situation, or educating themselves about risks. Make sure your suggestions do not make them feel as if their answers are wrong, because after all, any positive action is encouraged, and THEY are the ones who will ultimately be making their choices.
Get everyone involved: Keeping your family healthy isn’t just YOUR job – it’s a responsibility that belongs to everyone! Make healthy living an all-family project by getting everyone involved in planning a fun outdoor activity or asking your children to help cook a healthy dinner.
Encourage, encourage, encourage your children to be proud of themselves, love who they are, and appreciate their gifts. It’s important to take care of your family’s emotional health as well as physical health. We must make our kids our first priority and make sure they know they are always our first concern. Once they know that, they will make you their first priority or resource in a crisis situation.
This post is from Five Mom Becky Dyer. You can read more about Becky on the Five Moms’ blog.