Know! Peers' Parents Matter

In past Know! Tips, we have discussed the weighty influence of "friends" surrounding an adolescent's decision to drink, smoke and use other drugs. According to youth themselves, one of the biggest reasons they begin experimenting with substances is due to the pressure they feel from their alcohol or other drug using friends -FRIENDS MATTER.

Also in past Know! Tips, we have discussed the incredible power of parents and the positive influence moms and dads can have on their children's decision not to use substances. In fact, children whose parents talk with them early and often about the dangers of drugs are 50% less likely to use them in the first place. - PARENTS REALLY MATTER.

But what about the parents of your child's friends? Do they matter when it comes to influencing your son or daughter's choices regarding drug use? The answer is, YES, according to a new study by prevention researchers at Penn State.

"Among friendship groups with 'good parents' there's a synergistic effect - if your parents are consistent and aware of your whereabouts, and your friends' parents are also consistent and aware of their children's whereabouts, then you are less likely to use substances," said Michael J. Cleveland, research assistant professor at Penn State. "But if you belong to a friendship group whose parents are inconsistent, and your parents are consistent, you're still more likely to use alcohol. The differences here are due to your friends' parents, not yours." Therefore - PEER's PARENTS Matter too!

KNOWing this, what can PARENTS do to further protect their children?

  • Get to know not only your child's friends, but their parents as well. (Reach out with a phone call to introduce yourself and welcome them to call anytime to check in on their child).
  • Be present (as much as possible) when your child has friends in your home.
  • If you cannot be home, make sure another trusted adult supervises anytime your son or daughter has friends over.
  • Before your child attends a party, check-in with the parents to make sure it will be adult-supervised and drug-free. Feeling awkward about having to ask? Get over it. Remember, this is your child's well-being we're talking about.
  • Make your home the fun (yet safe) place for the kids to hang out.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you have an incredible opportunity to use your parent power to positively influence not just your own children, but your children's friends as well, in their choice to be alcohol and other drug-free.

Sources: Califano, Joseph A; How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope For Parents, 2009. Cleveland, Michael J. and colleges at Penn State: Do Peer' Parents Matter? A New Link Between Positive Parenting and Adolescent Substance Use, 2012.