I have three children aged 16, 14 and 13. The thought that they might turn to drugs constantly haunts me. What can I do to make sure that they don't use drugs?
There is little that you can do to stop them if they are determined to try drugs, short of locking them up in their room all day or setting a private detective on their trail (not to be recommended, of course!) But there is plenty that you can do to help them become aware of the risks, understand the consequences (including the fact it is illegal) and make sensible decisions for themselves.
If they decide to try or take drugs then the best you can hope for is that they will be aware of the dangers and how to be as safe as possible, and that they are not afraid to come to you should they need help.
Strive for good communication
The most important thing is to do everything you can to achieve good, open honest communication with your children. This should begin at an early age (birth is not too soon!). Give them frequent opportunities to talk about their feelings, beliefs and ideas. Accept their opinions and try not to be judgemental - this will make them less likely to open up to you - but don't be afraid to point out clearly where your own personal opinions lie.
Get properly informed yourself about drugs. Knowing the facts and what the real risks are will help you understand and may even allay some of your fears. Make sure you are able to help your children find the facts too.
Talk about drugs
Avoiding the topic doesn't avoid trouble. Find suitable times to talk to your children about drugs. Find out what they know and think about drugs, what their friends think and what is said at school - you may be surprised by what they say.
Check out school
Schools should have a written drugs policy these days. Check it out, and find out what provision there is at school , especially if children want to talk to someone about drugs. Make sure your children know who they can turn to if they need help or are in trouble.
Be prepared to let them fail
Being the parent of a teenager is monstrously difficult. At some point you have to stand back and let them make their own mistakes - you cannot protect them from the world. Your job is to be there to catch them when they fall. Try to make sure they know that you will be there for them, that you understand what they are going through and that while you don't approve of drugs, they can come to you if they need to with any problem.