Episode 10 - Parent Playbook: How to Play Offense
Why a Focus on Prevention is so Critical
If you listened to the last Audio Journal, we focused on what it takes to coach your family through the Opioid Crisis with a game plan, a playbook, an understanding of your opponent and help from your “assistants” when it’s called for. This episode will focus on what every successful college football coach knows and understand, that it’s much easier to play offense vs. always be on the defensive.
Football coaches don’t start preparing during the game; they start way in advance by scouting the competition, evaluating their players, understanding what plays produce results and just committing the time to do their homework. Your child may or may not ever use drugs or get addicted, but the reality is that 1 in 10 high schoolers will develop the disease of addiction before they even leave high schoool and that child may be yours.
We’re going to start the Parent Playbook by understanding how you can play offense before you have to play the much more difficult game of defense.
Playing offense in the game against substance abuse begins with a good prevention strategy. It’s hard for parents to get motivated to execute a prevention strategy when their child is a good student, a girl scout, an athlete and an all-around good kid. All of those things applied to my daughter until she started using drugs at age 14, became addicted and was in for the fight of her life, only to overdose and die after a 15-year struggle. I never played offense, so I spent 15 years playing the tougher game, defense. Here’s how to execute a good offensive prevention strategy.
Start your game strategy by understanding the risk factors. The disease of addiction runs in families so understand if it’s present in yours, your spouse’s or your extended family. Developing the disease requires a genetic link that kicks off the propensity of one’s brain to respond in overdrive in the presence of drugs and alcohol. Children that find it difficult to regulate their emotions, who have been bullied, who have had learning differences are all at higher risk. And think about children who have experienced other changes or difficulties they struggle with like managing through a divorce, a move to a new neighborhood or school, enduring stressful situations or trauma. They are statistically at much higher risk than other kids, so evaluate if this applies to your family.
InterAct LifeLine has been collecting great content and education and making it available in online portals to help parents understand the risk of addiction so they can be better prepared. All you have to do is visit rethinkthefamily.com and there is great information waiting for you.
Next, talk to your kids and educate them about the risks. Executing an offensive strategy is most successful when you prepare your team to understand the game they are playing. Start early and have conversations about substances in an age-appropriate way. Kids learn science in school, so give them a science lesson on what might happen to the brain when they drink or do drugs. Help them know what drugs are out there and what they need to do to avoid them. In addition to helping parents understand the risk of addiction, InterAct also gives you the help you need to use the right words to begin the conversation with your kids at any age.
Consider proactively and randomly drug testing your middle or high schoolers. Don’t think of drug testing as a punishment, but rather as a gift. Your kids can now blame their crazy parents when they choose to turn down the chance to smoke pot or take pills because they can tell their friends they are being drug tested and are sure to be caught. Drug tests can be bought at any drug store and are cheap and easy to use. Your child may try and fool the system, so you have to make tests random and take countermeasures to make sure that the tests give you the right results.
Trust but verify. My daughter would tell me that she was at rowing practice, with a friend, or engaged in a school activity. But that wasn’t the truth. She was not where she said she was and engaged in activities that she didn’t want me to know about. Back then, I didn’t have the same technology tools that parents have today. You have the ability to find my iPhone or install technology on your kid’s phone or laptop to monitor their keystrokes and messages. Our company InterAct LifeLine is going to help parents out with our 2020 product release, SafetyNet to use the smart phone coupled with wearables to help you geolocate your child and ask for check-ins to prove they are where they said they would be.
Coach from the field not from the stands. If you are going to play offense, you have to know the players on the field. Volunteer at your child’s school, meet with the teachers, and understand the environment by talking to other parents. Know your child’s friends, have them over, meet their parents, and understand what their environment is like if your child goes out with them or over to their house. There is nothing that compares to being right in the middle of the action vs. being in the stands, having your child tell you what is going on through their filter.
Addiction is a chronic disease just like diabetes. Once you have developed it, you will always have it and have to manage it to stay healthy. You and your child will always be playing defense instead of offense. That’s why a good offensive strategy focuses on prevention and includes understanding the risk factors and helping your children understand the risks. Playing offense may include proactively drug testing your kids to give them an excuse to still be cool and blame everything on you. You should try and communicate that while you trust your child, today’s deadly drug environment requires you to verify. And no game is won if the coach is not totally involved.
Had I been educated and prepared to play offense with both my son and daughter, I might have been able to prevent or delay Laura’s drug use giving her brain a chance to develop so it was less vulnerable to the substances that kicked off the disease. Instead, after Laura began using drugs at age 14, I stayed on the field playing defense for 15 long years, a very difficult game that unfortunately I didn’t win as she overdosed and died 2 years ago. So, let’s commit to prevention and playing offense because nobody wants to play the same game as I did.