Fathers: talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol

by Nickolaus Hayes | Special to the Courier

What makes a responsible father? There are countless answers to this question, but generally it means showing up every day and playing an essential role in a child’s life.

Fathers should provide abundant love, support, and make sacrifices to ensure their children are safe and cared for. A father is always there for his children. The greatest joy for any father is seeing his children thrive and be well and healthy.

But things happen in life. Teens and young adults can become curious about drugs and alcohol, and sometimes act on that curiosity.

According to the California Health Care Foundation, the rate of substance use disorder among young adults (aged 18 to 25) was nearly twice that of those 26 and older, and more than three times that of adolescents. Among those ages 12 to 17, 4.6% reported a substance use disorder in the past year. Among all age groups, marijuana remains the most common drug.

Illegal drugs are more readily available today than ever before. According to the DEA, traffickers have turned smartphones into one-stop shops to market, sell, buy, and deliver deadly, fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and other drugs. In this rapidly evolving age of social media, kids, teens, and young adults have easy access to these substances.

Drug dealers advertise on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The posts include code words and emojis used to surreptitiously market and sell illicit drugs.

Fathers (and mothers, and caregivers, of course) are responsible for preparing their children for the world. Drug education is essential. Take the time to speak to your kids about the dangers of illicit substances, how to avoid and manage peer pressure, and what to look for. Be prepared to share personal experiences and help them understand that choices have consequences.

It’s challenging to see our kids struggle, but fathers can face uphill battles as well, making it more difficult to be present for our children. The responsibility of raising children can be a lot, and the pressure of being a good influence can get the best of us.

All of this makes it vital not to ignore our own mental health. Children — especially younger kids — mimic what they see. How we cope with frustration, anger, sadness, and isolation impacts them in both obvious and less discernable ways.

Our actions have consequences. Children see how we handle ourselves, and while no father is perfect, we must be conscious that they are impressionable, especially when they’re young. Fathers need to be sure to take the time for self-care. But if you are struggling, call the free, 24-hour nationwide 988Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Your mental health and physical health are equal partners. Ensuring your well-being will help you be the best father you can be.

Nickolaus Hayes is a substance abuse and addiction recovery healthcare professional.


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