Parental Influence on Teens is Ever Present and Important

By Joshua Wright, Prevention Specialist –

You may feel your impact on your teen isn’t as effective as their friends, commercials, or movies when it comes to illegal substances. Yes, you raise them to have respect, be good role models, make good decisions and then at a certain point your influence just seems to fade.  Although it may seem like that to you, the influence you have on your teen is ever present and important.

Someone offers a cigarette, an alcoholic beverage or drugs to your teen. What are they thinking about? I’m sure some thoughts are: Should I take this? What will people think if I do or don’t do this? Despite popular belief, whether they make the right decision or not is often influenced by how their parents feel about drugs and alcohol. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, studies show 3 out of 4 teens said that their parents were the biggest reason in their decision to not smoke or drink.

As a parent or guardian you can better improve this influence on your child by knowing what to look for. If you suspect your teen is having issues with alcohol or drugs see if any of these signs come about. Physically you can look for: bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils, changes or slurred speech, memory lapses, poor concentration or inability to focus as they once did. In their personality you can look for: mood changes, flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness, lack of energy or lack of involvement in former interests. In their social life look for: friend changes, switching friends or hanging out with new friends and reluctance to letting you meet them, frequently attending parties or group hangouts, discussing alcohol or drug use on social media. In their school life: grades dropping, lack of interest in sports or extracurricular activities they were once involved in and recent disciplinary action. According to Talk2Prevent an Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) website that gives parents tips and tools to talk to their kids, other warning signs to look for are when household items come up missing. These items can include: money, alcohol and prescription drugs.

Since the influence of parents and guardians may not always be prevalent, there will be a point where teens will need to make their own decisions. This does not mean however that parents should care any less about their child’s health or well-being. But instead make every effort to enlighten them on why smoking, drinking and doing drugs is wrong and detrimental to their health and not just because “my mom, dad or teacher said so”. Establishing rules and guidelines about underage drinking has proven highly successful. This is done by discussing the issue and working together to set rules that all know and comprehend. Remember it’s important to remain positive and respectful in discussion as well. Taking the time to sit down, talk and/or answer questions and concerns that teens may have is substantial and WILL make a positive impact on their lives. The influence you have on your teen is significantly important and the effect it will have on their life will never fade.

Cortland Prevention Resources (CPR) offers a great program for teens called Teen Intervene. This program is available for youth 12-19 who are experiencing mild to moderate problems associated with alcohol or drug use. The 1 on 1 format helps teens develop skills, identify how drugs impact their lives and promote healthy behaviors during two sessions (third session is optional with parents). Reaching the youth in Cortland County is no easy task and everyone’s help is needed. CPR works with Cortland Area Communities That Care (CACTC) to provide a supportive environment for the youth of Cortland County. CACTC’s mission is to reduce the behaviors associated with substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, school dropouts, violent behavior and their impact on the Cortland County community.

For more information and programs available for teens and families call Cortland Prevention Resources at (607) 756-8970. Cortland Prevention Resources is a division of Family Counseling Services.