MomTalk.com February 28, 2021:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more

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Rising Risk--Substance Use and Our Daughters

Girls have caught up with boys in a most unhealthy way--by increasing their use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Girls ages 12 to 17 now match boys in illegal drug and alcohol use and have actually surpassed boys in smoking cigarettes and misusing prescription drugs.

Why do some teen girls use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs? This is a complex question, but research reveals some of the reasons. Understanding these risks--and how they may make your daughter vulnerable--can help you talk with her about drugs and emphasize your expectations that she not use drugs.

Many girls experience dramatic changes during their preteen and early teen years. They are developing physically and mentally and are growing more independent. Girls' self-esteem and self-confidence often drop as they feel pressure to look or act a certain way. This pressure can come from the media or from parents and friends. Many girls use alcohol, tobacco, and drugs in their struggle to feel better about themselves, their lives, and the problems they face. Girls say they are trying to:

  • Improve mood
  • Increase confidence
  • Reduce tension
  • Cope with problems
  • Lose inhibitions
  • Lose weight

What Can Parents Do To Prevent Their Daughters From Using Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs?

1. Set clear no-use expectations when it comes to these products. Let your daughter know that any use--even if it's just a sip of beer or one cigarette or one pill--is too much.

2. Talk about trust. Most teen girls do not want to lose their parents' trust. So when you talk with her, make it clear that you're counting on her to decide not to use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Point out times when you were proud of the choices she made, and tell her that you expect her to use the same good judgment when it comes to staying away from substances.

3. Provide your daughter with structure and rules. Make it clear that there will be consequences if she uses alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Let her know that these rules are in place because you love her and want her to be healthy and safe.

4. Build a good relationship with your daughter. Talk with your child every day and listen to her concerns. Stay clued in about what's going on in her world. Give her your full attention when she talks and really listen to what she has to say.

5. Help your daughter appreciate her strengths and develop good self-esteem. Be generous with praise and teach her how to see herself in positive ways. Stay away from criticism that may make her feel like she isn't "good enough" or doesn't measure up. Separate who she is from what she does. For example, you might say, "I'm disappointed with the grades on your report card" instead of "I'm disappointed in you."

Today's teen girls are bombarded with expectations that many adults cannot imagine, but most girls look to their parents--more than their peers--to provide guidance. Even though your daughter may not always act like she needs or wants your help, she does need your love, guidance, and support every day to help her develop into a confident, healthy, happy young woman.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Family Guide To Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy & Drug Free.

Categories: Tweens, Teens, Children,

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