Do you need a drug free contract in your home?
In this era of litigation and fine print, it seems that you need a contract for everything. But, can we have contracts with our own teens when it comes to drug use?
Prevention goes a long way towards ensuring your child leads a drug free life. And what parent ever wants to start planning an intervention for teenage drug abuse? If you are trying to maintain a drug free household, why wouldn’t you want to have an agreement in writing that specifies all the rules and expectations that you have of your teen, along with what they can expect from you? And if you’re asking yourself, “How to tell if my kid is on drugs?”, it might be better to be explicit and straight forward about the issue.
Here, we review WHAT NOT TO DO in terms of monitoring drug use with your kids. Then, we offer some simple steps in setting up a drug free contract at home. Finally, we invite your questions about drug contracts at the end.
Drug testing your teen is NOT recommended
In an earlier post on Addiction Blog, we reviewed the question, “Should I drug test my teen?” In sum, the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised against drug testing children because its members were concerned about the safety, accuracy and effectiveness of in-home tests, plus they stated that parents risk eroding trust with their teens and becoming more police officer than parent if they choose to do drug testing.
False positives are also possible with in-home tests due to antibiotics, poppy seeds, over-the-counter-cold medications or cigarettes. You can also get false negatives, if your teen cheats the test, which is totally possible. You can avoid these false positives and negatives by sending your child to a laboratory to be tested by professionals, but that could undermine trust even more than doing it yourself.
Why drug free contracts for teens?
Whether or not you decide to drug test your teen, something else you can do is make a contract with them regarding what is expected from both sides when it comes to drug use. Things just seem more official and binding when they are written down and signed. And having a contract in place lets children know exactly what parents expect and also lets them know that their actions will have clear consequences.
A contract is is a great tool because they allow both sides to have input into it. It’s not about being a set of rules to follow, it’s an agreement that both parties can adhere to. You just have to make sure that you are ready to follow what it says.
Step 1: Define why you’re creating a drug free contract
The first step in drawing up a drug free household contract is to identify the problem. This could mean addressing a drug problem that is already apparent or just trying to prevent any drug experimentation from happening in the first place. Whatever you identify as the problem, let your teen have a say in it, too. You may find that they feel they need more space or increased privacy or that they feel something else is also a problem.
Step 2: Set clear expectations
Second, you set clear expectations from both parties. What privileges will be taken away if one of the parties fails to hold up their end of the deal? And what rewards will be provided if they do adhere to it?
The contract should state some achievable solutions that the entire family can get behind to help solve the identified problem. If the identified problem is your teen’s alcohol abuse, for example, a solution might be to ban alcohol from the house.
If you have decided to perform drug tests with your teen, a contract like this is the ideal place to outline what they can expect as far as drug testing goes. That doesn’t mean telling them the dates of the drug tests, obviously. If you have decided not to drug test, then you could include beginning a drug testing regimen as part of the consequences if they break the contract.
Step 3: Consider all the details
Some other things to consider are that these drug free contracts for the home will be most effective if all caretakers are involved in their design, meaning anyone who might be in charge of the teen at any given time; parents, step-parents, grandparents or other guardians, so that everyone is aware of it when the teen is in their care.
Also, the contract should cover all children in the household and not just one or two. This way, everyone is covered under the same guidelines and rules and nobody has any reason to be jealous of somebody else’s perceived privileges.
And lastly, have reasonable punishments for breaking the contract. If you make them too harsh or too lenient, the contract simply won’t be taken seriously. And on the subject of taking it seriously, take care of it like you take care of all your important documents. That doesn’t mean putting it in the safety deposit box necessarily, but put it in a safe place where you can easily find it when you need to.
Step 4: Renew regularly
Schedule a date for the next renegotiation of the contract. Each contract should cover a set period of time and when that time is up, you should evaluate the progress that has been made and draw up a new contract accordingly. (This may involve making no changes apart from the new time frame.)
Drug free contracts for kids: An example
If you need an example of a drug-free household contract, you can find examples and templates online. Just use the keywords, “Drug free contracts home example” in your internet browser. With both sides having input into your drug-free household contract, you should be able to reach a solid understanding of what is expected, what can be tolerated and what absolutely will not be tolerated in your household. Remember, though, that these contracts are only a tool, and like any other tool, it’s how people use them that’s important.