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The Best Gift Is Not One You Can Buy

November 29, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

Today is Black Friday, which kicks off the holiday shopping frenzy. While filling a shopping cart with the latest smart phones and tablets and the latest fashions for your kids, don’t forget that the best gift you can give them is your love, undivided attention, respect, and open communication.

The holiday season can be a joyous occasion for families but also can be a period of increased alcohol consumption and drug abuse. The number one reason young people give for choosing not to use alcohol or other drugs is that they do not want to disappoint their parents. To take full advantage of your parental influence, you should be informed on the issues; be clear on where you stand when it comes to underage drinking and drug use; and you should foster and strengthen communication with your kids.

You may find the following tips from the Drug Free Action Alliance helpful in boosting communication with your children:

  • Get in the habit of chatting about the everyday stuff with your child before jumping into potentially intense conversations.
  • Demonstrate your genuine interest in what your child has to say by listening with your full attention.
  • Be respectful of your child’s feelings and viewpoint, even when you do not necessarily agree. He/she will then be much more likely to return the favor.
  • Choose your words carefully and be aware of your body language. If you show shock or disgust by what your child has shared, you will have ended the conversation.
  • Be mindful of your tone of voice. It’s not just what we say, but how we say it.
  • Avoid interrupting and lecturing. These are also proven conversation busters.
  • You must know the facts about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and share them truthfully.
  • Skip the scare tactics. According to prevention experts, they are not effective.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments: For example, you are in the car with your child, with the radio on. You’ve got a captive audience, so try talking about that alcohol ad you both just heard.
  • Last but not least, control your emotions. If the talk gets heated and you display anger, your child is likely to go into fight or flight mode… neither of which will benefit anyone.

It is very important to clearly communicate your love for your children and your desire for them to make healthy lifestyle choices. As you strengthen the lines of communication, your children will feel more comfortable to share their feelings with you, to ask questions, to seek your advice and guidance and in the end, you will be helping your kids to make more positive life decisions; like choosing not to use alcohol or abuse drugs.

During the Holidays, Enjoy Family Meals

The holiday season is a time for gathering. Your kids are on school break, college kids may be home for a month or more, and your older children may be visiting with their partners and your grandchildren. Family meals are a great way to reconnect and to share accomplishments and disappointments. 

Regular family meals can be especially beneficial for your teens. Research studies have documented that teens who take part in regular  meals with their families are less likely to drink alcohol, use marijuana, or smoke cigarettes. And during those meals, turn off the TV and leave the smart phones in another room!  


  • Parent Power: Family Meals Make a Difference
  • Building Blocks: Help your children learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy activities and practice making decisions and solving problems. Information from the Substance Abuse & Mental health Services Administration 


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