Have your Eyes and Ears Open. Everyone is at risk.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of someone in trouble with drug and alcohol use. Many parents and grandparents do not believe it could be their child/grandchild. All Maine teens are at risk.
- Monitor closely. Ask questions and check in often with them and what is going on in their life. Share your views on drug use. Open communication and disapproval are a significant deterrent.
- Reduce access to substances in your home. Maintain inventory of everything and keep them locked up. Do not share your prescriptions.
- Speak with others who share your concerns about substance use. Become involved in prevention initiatives and your local community coalition.
You play a pivotal role in helping to prevent teen drug and alcohol use. The relationship between you and your grandchild is very special. It is different from the one they have with their parents. You are probably much more cool, relaxed, and direct than their parents. You have a powerful influence that can help them stay away from drugs.
Children need protective factors. These are the positive influences they grow up with to know their value and worth. One of those positive forces is time. Spend as much time as possible, providing security, guidance, and support. This strengthens the relationship and line of communication. It also makes your grandchild feel good. It gives them a break from possible pressures at home and at school. Little notes and regular connection via technology work too. For a more complete list of assets that help young people thrive, visit, the Search Institute. Role modeling is another critical component. Show them the same healthy habits you want them to develop. Be armed with the latest information about drugs and alcohol. You will know when the time is right to speak to your grandchild about the associated risks. Find information about speaking with young people of all ages about substance use.
There are many sources of information including the media, web, and peers. There are also many opinions that can make the information confusing and leave you misinformed. You will want information that is up to date and based in research. Look for sites that start with https. Avoid sites that are making claims from one person’s point of view.
The most accurate information about drugs will come from sites that have considered research and many studies. These studies will come a variety of sources. Information will be from experts in the field of substance abuse.
Recommendations include the:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Another resource is The Power of Grandparents document where you can find information about: substances, the pivotal role you play, speaking with your grandchild about substance use, how to help them, and more.
All teens are at risk. There are certain factors that when present, increase a teens chance for developing a substance use problem. Being aware and paying special attention can reduce the likelihood. Family history is one critical element. If you, their parents, or any other direct family member has had a substance use disorder, your grandchild has an increased biological risk. Another is a mental health or behavioral disorder. Not all teens with mental health conditions develop a substance use disorder, but they are at increased risk because of difficulties regulating thoughts and emotions. Childhood trauma increases the chance of later substance use as well. Impulsive and risk-taking children are at increased risk due to their difficulty to resist a behavior.
Try to speak with them. If they are not ready, continue to let them know you care, and that you are there for them. Check in often. It is not intruding. Checking in shows that you care and want to be part of their life. If they do acknowledge using alcohol or drugs, ask a lot of questions, and get as much information as you can. Be sure to explain to your grandchild that you will need to speak with her parents. You can offer to do this with or without them and ensure them that it is because you care and are taking the use seriously. If your grandchild has not indicated any use or reasons for odd behavior and you are worried, speak with the child's parent(s) and offer to help.
Let them know you are concerned about their behavior. Listen in confidence if they choose to talk to you about their use, or problems. Remind them of all the positive things in their life, and risks substance use poses to maintaining the things they value. Never offer substances as a way for them to cope and help them work through substance-free alternatives. Be supportive by offering to help them find assistance and identify counseling and treatment services in the community using resources such as Maine 2-1-1. Remain respectful and supportive if they choose not to speak to you about their use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs offers more information that may be helpful for you.