Experts who took part in the international forum on *Drug-free Childhood* here feel that parents have a central role in safeguarding children from drug abuse, as even minor deviations on the part of their children that they tend to ignore could lead to serious consequences.
The three-day conclave, which concluded on Friday, had the theme *Children Matter - Right to a Drug-free Childhood* was organised by the Fourth Wave Foundation (FWF) in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD).
Edit Schlaffer, a top global anti-drug campaigner and founder of *Women Without Borders*, said that four to 10 years is the formative period when the physical and mental personality of a child develops, and the use of alcoholic drinks or smoking by parents at home, which have become a new normal, will seriously affect the character formation of children.
"The role of parents in ensuring a drugs-free childhood is especially crucial at a time when the pace of transition to nucleus families has accelerated. Family settings are central to defining the trajectories of current and future generations, and parenting education remains a missing link in most youth safeguarding strategies," said Schlaffer.
"It is important to keep in mind that drug abuse is not something that affects your neighbour*s children alone. It could happen in one*s own family. The tendency on the part of over-indulgent parents who justify minor deviations of their children is common these days. This is dangerous. Parents have to remain alert about what is going on in one*s own home," Schlaffer added.
In the prevailing family ecosystem, parents should first give up alcoholic drinks and smoking if they want their children to be insulated from drug abuse, said Diana Vincent, Director, Fourth Wave Foundation (FWF).
"Parents are the role model of children up to 10 years of age, at least. If the words and deeds of the parents are at variance, it would confuse the children, and that could have a life-long impact on them," said Vincent.
Raja Shanmugam from FWF said the age of a child is a sensitive factor which should be taken into serious consideration by the parents.
"The tendency to slip into drug abuse is strong till one turns 24. So, the parents should not approach their children in the same way they treat the grown-ups. In our society, pre-marriage counselling is organised by religious establishments and community outfits. On the same lines, counselling against drug abuse should be planned to root out this danger", said Shanmugam.
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