Six steps to keep kids off drugs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1993, 12:00am

Q: MY children are aged eight and 13. Although they are still quite young I worry that they might become involved with drugs and alcohol. I have heard that drug use is increasing in the schools. What can I do to steer them away from drugs? Dr Rose writes: It's never too early to start preparing your children to say no to drugs. Children are beginning to experiment with drugs at an earlier age.

The greatest protection against drugs comes from educating our children to feel good about themselves. Studies show that most people who have problems with drugs and alcohol have low self-esteem. You can play an active role in influencing your children'sself-esteem by following these steps: Talk with your children about alcohol and other drugs. Start by offering simple explanations about what drugs are and their harmful effects. As your children get older they will be subject to increased peer pressure. By discussing this topic with them now you leave the door open for them to approach you with their questions and feelings in the future.

Learn to listen to your children. By learning to listen to your children now, they will be more likely to share concerns about drug use at a later date. Learn how to give verbal and non-verbal clues that show you are listening. Direct eye contact, a smile and a nod all show your children you are paying attention and that you care.

Help your children feel good about themselves. As long as you praise your children's accomplishments and encourage them with your love and understanding they will feel good about themselves. Try not to be over-critical about your children and don't forget to give them lots of positive reinforcement.

Help your children develop a strong sense of values. If your children have the opportunity to discuss with you what is right and wrong it will be easier for them to make correct decisions about drugs and alcohol. They will have the courage to say no whenother children pressure them into experimenting with drugs.

Be a good role model. If you expect your children to steer clear of drugs and alcohol you must demonstrate a responsible attitude towards both to your children. If you are unable to control your own use of alcohol and drugs, now is the time to seek help.

Establish family rules and expectations. Your children should know that you expect them not to use drugs and alcohol. They should be aware of the consequences for using them.

There is no guarantee that your children will not experiment with drugs and alcohol as they grow older. But by taking the appropriate steps now you will establish a strong foundation that will enable your children to make decisions on their own.

Q: PLEASE tell me more about scoliosis. My niece has just been diagnosed with this and I would like to know what can be done to help her.

Dr Rose writes: Scoliosis is a deformity beginning in childhood or adolescence in which the spine is bent to one side, resulting in an ''S'' shape. The areas most often affected are the lower back and chest. The deformity may continue to develop until the child stops growing. It is often exacerbated during puberty.

In rare cases, scoliosis develops after a case of polio that weakens the spine muscles on one side of the body.

The diagnosis is made by clinical examination and X-raying the spine. The type of treatment prescribed depends on the severity of the deformity. The overall objective is to prevent any functional disturbance and any increase in deformity. Exercises and braces are prescribed to improve posture and maintain spinal mobility in mild to moderate cases.

Your niece's doctor will need to assess how the condition is progressing. If, over time, her condition appears to be worsening the doctor may elect to immobilise her spine in a plaster jacket or metal brace. Occasionally surgery is needed to fuse the affected spinal vertebrae and it is necessary to insert a steel rod. Rest assured that most cases are not severe and will not require surgical correction.

Dr Rose Ong is a certified family physician licensed in the United States. She welcomes enquiries but cannot answer them individually. Specific questions should be addressed to your own physician. Additional enquiries: Peak Corporate Health Management Ltd, phone 525-6600, fax 525-8100.