Drug & Alcohol Awareness Committee

DEA Administration Guest Speaker @ Elks Convention

Grandparents can be key to preventing teen drug use

By FRANK SCARPINO, Special Contributor

Grandparents adore their grandchildren – without judgment – and their grandchildren adore them. This means that grandparents can play a role that parents can't. Grandparents can have open and honest conversations with kids about drugs and alcohol without judgment, yelling, criticism or punishment.

The conversation on drugs and alcohol won't just happen by itself. Grandparents should begin by establishing a bond, so this important conversation becomes a natural part of that close relationship. Grandparents can use their time together to show an interest in their grandchild's life – listening, asking questions, offering love and encouragement. This is not an opportunity to give advice or opinions – that is the role of parents.

A good relationship between grandparents and children means they can offer opinions about illegal substance use without seeming like a nag. They don't need to be afraid to express their opinion against underage drinking or dangerous substance use. Research shows that kids are influenced by the opinions of important adults in their lives. Children don't want to disappoint their grandparents, so they will be less likely to indulge when they hear clear disapproval. Once the topic is on the table, grandparents should be open to listening to their grandchild's stories. They may hear about a friend who got "wasted" or someone who was "grounded for a month," and listen without expressing disapproval. The child may then want to discuss his/her own struggle to fit in and seem "normal," but yet not indulge. Grandparents can be prepared with practical advice such as "hold a cup and pretend to drink," or "offer to be the designated driver."

They may listen further and hear stories from their grandchild that worries them – talking about their own overindulgence in alcohol, illegal drugs or even prescription pills. They should resist the urge to yell, criticize or lecture their grandchild. This is the tricky part – they must also resist the urge to keep their grandchild's secret. Above all else, the grandchild's health and safety are of paramount importance. But, grandparents shouldn't go behind the child's back to his/her parent. Instead, they should explain that they need to talk to mom or dad, then offer their support throughout the process, and discuss the best ways to talk to the parent.

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