In preparing your child for the substance abuse trap, brief him on what he will undoubtedly face. Your child will have an opportunity to smoke, drink, and do drugs in junior high or sooner. Some children are coming to school drunk; others are bringing a bottle with them and drinking during the day. They may be your child's classmates. Sometimes a bottle is passed around, and our children must deal with the temptation.

One thing we have done is role-play with our children what they would do if an alcoholic beverage is put in front of them or someone offers them drugs. Or what would they do if asked to get in a car when everyone else-including the driver-had been drinking?

The tests on these issues come in waves for years.

Some time back I took our son Benjamin to college, and as I was helping him unload his clothing and move his gear into his room, we took a rest on the tailgate of a pickup truck and watched other students coming in. Their arms were loaded with cases of beer and sacks of liquor. It was just 3:00 p.m. and some of them were already completed wasted.

Granted, it was a weekend and classes had not started. But suddenly I was overtaken by fear. I wondered if all of our efforts as parents, all of the hours of discipline, building character, and helping Benjamin face issues in his life had adequately prepared my son. Would he pass the test?

That's the challenge we all face. We have to project ourselves into the future and see ourselves sitting on the back of that pickup with a son or daughter. How will they handle that situation when the time comes? Will they be able to stand firm?

As I sat with Benjamin on that tailgate, I turned to him and looked him in the eye. "Son," I said, "I've got to tell you that watching all these young men get wasted on booze really causes me to question the wisdom of sending you into the midst of all this."

There was only a brief silence and he returned my gaze. "Dad, this is my mission field," he replied. "It's going to be tough, but if it was easy these guys wouldn't need Jesus Christ. This is what you and Mom have trained me for. God has led me and He will protect me."

There I sat, rebuked by my 18-year-old son. He was a young man of faith. Later, when he was initiated into his fraternity, he said to me, "Dad, I see your fear, and I know you have a concern. I want you to know that God has sent me to this fraternity. I feel like He has led me to reach this fraternity for Jesus Christ. And I am going to be okay. You pray for me, but I am going to be okay."

Later he told me that during his fraternity initiation, surrounded by the entire fraternity of nearly 100 guys, they put a bottle of champagne in his hand. The idea was that each pledge was to chug the whole bottle.

At that point there was no dad or mom standing beside him.

Benjamin shook up the bottle and sprayed the whole fraternity, totally emptying it on the group! Five other guys, out of a group of about 40 pledges, did the same thing.

That took courage. But that internal gumption was not developed during that moment when our son was surrounded. It was built in a series of small steps over a period of many years.

Two years later our second son, Samuel, demonstrated similar courage by replicating his brother's champagne shower!

On their own, our children must be prepared to make the choice to be different-not to be pious or religious, but to be a young person who operates on firmly held personal convictions.


1) "Teenagers close to parents not as likely to drink, smoke," Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, 10 Sept. 1997, p. 1.

2) APA Online, "Substance Abuse," p.2, retrieved electronically at


Adapted from Parenting Today's Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.