STUDIO CITY (KCAL9) — Television host, legal commentator and author Loni Coombs stopped by KCAL9 Friday to discuss different red flags that might warrant invading your child’s privacy.
Coombs, author of “You’re Perfect…and Other Lies Parents Tell”, shared key questions parents should ask themselves:
• Has your child’s behavior changed drastically?
• Has your child become completely non-communicative with you? Are you at the point where you are unsure who your child’s friends are, where they’re spending their time, and so on?
• Has there been a traumatic event in your child’s life that they aren’t talking about (such as a divorce, a death, a move, or a romantic break-up)?
• Does your child have a new peer group that makes you nervous?
• Has your child’s grades dropped significantly? Is your child misbehaving at school or skipping school?
• Are you worried your child might be using drugs or alcohol?
As a following up to the last question, here is how Coombs believes parents should tackle drug and alcohol problems:
• What you can do: stop using — The best thing you can do for your own kids is to start cutting drugs and alcohol out of your own life.
• Talk to your kids! — A study from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that when parents of high-school teens talked to their kids about a “zero tolerance” for drugs and alcohol at prom or graduation, only 16 percent of the teens reported the likelihood of using, whereas 45 percent of the teens whose parents didn’t talk to them reported that they were likely to use.
• Get informed — Show your teenager you are educated about drugs and their impact. You need to know what your kids are tempted to use. What are the latest, crazy ways teens are creating to get high? Bath salts? Nutmeg? Prescription-strength cough syrup? It is important to educate yourself and be ready to talk about how damaging these drugs are.
• Understand the risks of the “one time won’t hurt” mentality — Based on fairly recent scientific discoveries regarding our genetic makeup, one time may be enough to hook your child for the rest of his or her life. A person’s genes account for 50 percent of their vulnerability to addiction. (The other half is environment.)
• Use scare tactics — e.g. – show pictures of people before and after taking drugs.
• Watch their peers — Children rarely, if ever, decide to start using drugs on their own. They are usually introduced to the world of drugs by someone else — and it is usually a peer. Studies show that one of the biggest determiners in whether your child will use drugs is whether their peers use drugs. If their peers aren’t using drugs, the chances are your kid isn’t either. Tell your kids this when they are choosing friends. And keep an eye on signs that their friends may be using. If you think they are, it is red-alert time for your children!
• Teach your child how to say “no” — Sometimes for your child, being able to do the right thing comes down to just knowing how to say “no.” Brainstorm and role-play with your kids about different scenarios where they might be invited, or pressured, to drink or take drugs. E.g. – You are at a party and someone offers you a joint, your friend is celebrating her birthday, and her mom is giving everyone champagne, your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to get high together to “feel closer”, etc. Come up with ways that they can comfortably say “no” and withdraw from the situation. Good choices often come from planning ahead.
• Drinking and driving — Parents, you must impress upon your children, without equivocation, that under no circumstances should they ever drive after drinking. Tell your kids that you will always come get them if they have been drinking. No matter how upset you may be if they drink, they will always get points in your book if they call you for a ride home.
• Assemble your crisis management plan now — The earlier you establish a plan, the better. And then you need to be very clear with your kids about what you will do if you catch them with drugs. Those consequences should be ringing in their ears while they are weighing the pros and cons of taking that drug that is being offered to them. And you have to stick with it. If your kids sense for even a minute that you’re wavering, then they aren’t going to see your plan as a deterrent.
• A funeral to remember — If you have seen or experienced addiction up close, you know you would do anything to keep your child from even the possibility, much less a one-in-ten-chance, of that lifelong sentence. Addiction is an insidious game-changer that no one expects. And we need to do everything we can to protect our children from it.