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SAFE HARBOR #2: Together Time

Get involved in your child’s life:

  • Allow for “together time” daily.
  • Value your child’s accomplishments.
  • Motivate your child through positive feedback.
  • Use informal family meetings to share concerns, ideas, and opinions.
  • Watch for signs of stress.

Why is it important for you to get involved in your child’s life?

Children who know that their parents are there for them, no matter what, will have more strength to get through the tough times.

Having involved, caring adults in their lives is an important factor in preventing children from turning to alcohol and drugs.

Parents who are active in their children’s lives are better able to see when the children are stressed out or unhappy and, therefore, at risk of alcohol abuse.

Children who have a strong and warm relationship with their parents take better care of themselves, are more independent, and are more able to make decisions on their own.

Allow for “together time” daily. How you spend time with your children is more important than how much time you spend with them. Children like having even 15 minutes a day where their parents share time only with them. This time does not have to involve big plans. It can be as simple as talking while preparing dinner, going to the library, taking a walk, working on a craft project, telling jokes, or getting an ice cream cone.

Value your child’s accomplishments. Watch your child at what he or she likes to do and join in if you can. Praise your child’s basketball skills or performance in a concert. Ask to try out your child’s new video game. Your participation and encouragement says that these activities are worthwhile and that you acknowledge what is important to your child.

Motivate your child through positive feedback. Recognize good behavior consistently and immediately. Praise your child even for ordinary efforts such as getting up on time, helping to set the table, or finishing homework without being told. This positive feedback motivates your child to continue following the rules and perhaps even to exceed your expectations.

Use informal family meetings to share concerns, ideas, and opinions. For some families, mealtime is the perfect opportunity to have discussions and to teach children the value of self-expression through lively but polite conversation. Car trips and walks together are two other good opportunities for talking over family issues. It’s helpful to plan specific times for family meetings, but also be open to unscheduled discussions as needed, even if they occur at busy or inconvenient times.

Watch for signs of stress.

Here are some signs:

  • Having low self-esteem;
  • Having low energy or showing depression;
  • Crying easily;
  • Being unresponsive;
  • Changing eating habits;
  • Being irritable and short tempered;
  • Rejecting advice, authority, or assistance;
  • Having falling grades;
  • Having mood swings; and
  • Showing changes in personality.

If you see signs of stress, talk with your child, let your child know that you care, and work together to solve the problems that create the stress. If the stress continues, seek outside help.

When your child is under stress …

Children under stress are more likely to turn to alcohol to find relief from stress. These suggestions can help prevent your child’s stress from building to unsafe levels:

  • • Allow your child to express his or her feelings and concerns. Listen actively.
  • Step in and take action if your child becomes overwhelmed by schoolwork or too many activities.
  • Make sure your child has healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.
  • Tell your child that feelings such as anxiety, fear, and anger are natural, and everyone must learn to cope with them.
  • Look at your own coping skills to see if you are setting a good example.
  • Teach your child ways to relax.
  • Set goals based on your child’s ability, not on your or someone else’s expectations.
  • Help your child express anger in positive ways, without violence.
  • Show confidence in your child’s ability to solve problems and tackle new challenges.
  • Suggest that your child take a break from stressful situations by listening to music, talking with a friend, drawing, or doing some other calming activity.
  • Talk with your child about ideas for relieving stress.
  • Help your child accept mistakes and learn from them.