We all know by now what it means to be a helicopter parent. Just in case, it is not a compliment. Maybe you've also heard of snowplow parenting? Maybe you've read about a few other types of parenting? Lighthouse, Free-range, and Tiger parenting are a few I read about recently.
I am not a smart guy, but I know better than to judge people about their parenting. Even putting folks in a parenting category like those above can have seriously bad effects. I try to avoid it.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone about what parents can do about their kids when it comes to substance misuse. We were listening to a scary but true presentation from the "one pill can kill" campaign. This presentation sought to make parents aware that because of the way drugs are now "comprised" it is impossible to know what is in what you are taking. The dangers of even small doses of synthetic substances (like fentanyl) are enough to keep (good) parents up at night wondering how to keep their children safe.
What type of parent from the above list or others like it keeps their kids safest? Well that simply can't be quantified. Besides, I have already said I don't like labels like those when it comes to parents. It is scary, really scary, as a parent myself, to try to think of a strategy or strategies to keep my own children safe. From hovering over them to pushing everything aside for them, the truth is that none of the often used "parent types" is any better at stopping substance misuse among children than any of the others. Helicopter moms and snowplow dads . . . when it comes to substance misuse with our kids there is a genuine "there but for the grace of God goes mine" feeling when we read the stories and see the dangers.
I can tell you one thing I see that works. Activity. Be an active parent. Join in your kids daily activities. Go to recitals. Cheer at ball games. Help with homework. Eat together, watch TV together, go for a walk together. Our kids will not always warm to the idea of sitting next to mom to watch the latest Netflix show or going for a walk with dad around the neighborhood. But whether they can articulate it or not, they will appreciate being asked to do so. Just being active in their lives makes a HUGE difference. I don't have scientific facts to quote. I can't give concrete "cause and effect." But I can tell you being active works! It is not the silver bullet, it does not promise "no such problems." But I can promise you that being active in the lives of your children matters!
Please, do not misread what I am saying. People whose children end up with a substance misuse problem are not by definition (and certainly not by MY definition) somehow inactive in their parenting. No, that is not what I am saying. There are thousands of cases, sadly, where dad was perfectly active, or mom was a part of everything, and yet somehow this scrouge on our society that is substance misuse crept in any way.
But as a parent, what I want is something I can do to keep my kid safe. Anything, but something. Being active is that. Anyone can do it, everyone can do it, and it does make a difference.
Want more tips on parenting as it relates to substance misuse? Contact Shane Nixon, Executive Director of DACI and scared, but active, parent.