Comment: Father’s love includes talking about drugs, alcohol

All dads want to protect and care for their kids. Among the greatest threats are drugs and alcohol.

By Nickolaus Hayes / For The Herald

Being a father is not easy; it takes sacrifice, which means playing an essential role in a child’s life by being there for them and loving them unconditionally.

Every father knows they need to provide abundant love and support. A father is always there for their children, offering guidance, support and education. The greatest joy for any father is seeing their children thrive, do well in life, and be healthy.

Yet things happen in life, and kids and teens experiment with risks while testing their limits and boundaries, such as trying drugs or alcohol. Fathers have a responsibility to speak to their kids about drugs and alcohol and help them understand the risks and consequences.

Drug education and prevention campaigns are critical in helping young people understand the risks involved with using drugs or alcohol. According to drug abuse statistics, teenagers in Washington state are 33 percent more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. Roughly 11 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds reported using drugs in the previous month, with marijuana being the most widely used drug.

Illegal drugs today are more readily available than ever before. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, drug traffickers have turned smartphones into a one-stop shop to market, sell, buy and deliver deadly fake prescription pills and other drugs. Amid this ever-changing age of social media, kids and teens are easily influenced as drugs and alcohol are often glorified.

Drug traffickers advertise on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube and Facebook. The posts are promptly posted and removed with code words and emojis used to market and sell illicit drugs. Unfortunately, digital media provides an increased opportunity for both marketing and social transmission of risky products and behaviors.

Fathers are responsible for protecting and preparing our children for the world. Drug education is essential. Take the time to speak to your kids about the dangers of illicit substances, how to avoid and manage peer pressure, and what to look for. Be prepared to share personal experiences and help them understand that some choices have consequences.

Along with bearing this responsibility, fathers must not neglect their well-being and mental health. Raising children can be a lot; there are many challenges along the way, and the pressure of being a good influence can get the best of us. We may second guess our choices and decisions and stress over the small things.

All of this makes it vital not to ignore our mental health; children, especially younger kids, mimic what they see. How we cope with frustration, anger, sadness or isolation impacts our children in several ways.

Our actions have consequences. Children see how we handle every situation, and while no father is perfect, we must be conscious of the fact they are impressionable when they are young. They look up to us, mimic our actions, and see when we are doing well in life mentally.

The key for fathers caring for children is to take the time to care for themselves. However, if you are struggling, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Taking care of your mental health is the same as taking care of your physical health; it is an integral part of your well-being and contributes to you being the best father you can be.

Nickolaus Hayes is a health care professional in the field of substance use and addiction recovery and is part of the editorial team at DRS. His primary focus is spreading awareness by educating individuals on the topics surrounding substance use.

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