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Back To School Tip For Parents: Talk With Your Kids About Drinking and Drugs

Don't let schedules and long to-do lists get in the way of a good talk.

As children think about heading back to school, many are worried about social anxiety and peer pressure, according to experts from the Governor's Prevention Partnership, which is offering parents tips on how to ease stress on children as the school year starts. 

Catherine Barden, the coalition coordinator for the Madison Alcohol and Drug Education coalition, agreed, and said the end of summer is great time to make sure the lines of communication are open when it comes to issues like drug use and alcohol.

She also noted that "parents can include more than just mom and dad."

"It's grandparents, aunts and uncles, close family friends, mentors and other caring adults," she said.

Barden offered the following tips about communicating with your kids about drugs and alcohol:

  1. Clearly communicate the risks of drug/alcohol use
  2. Let your kids know you disapprove of any drug/alcohol use — teens who believe their parents will be upset if they try marijuana are 44 percent less likely to do so
  3. Use “teachable moments” to raise drug/alcohol issues
  4. Frequently talk and listen to your kids about how things are going in their lives

"Even if you used in the past, don’t be afraid to talk!" Barden said. "Remember, you do matter: Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are significantly less likely to use drugs."

Barden said a recent MTV survey showed that almost half of all kids name a parent as their hero.

She also offered the following six tips for monitoring your children as they head back to school:

  1. Know who your child is with
  2. Know what they’re doing
  3. Know where your child will be
  4. Know when your child is expected home
  5. Know who your teen’s friends are — communicate with their parents
  6. Establish and enforce rules — including a clear “no use” policy.

Here is the information provided by the Governor's Prevention Partnership:

Children and parents can face many challenges as the transition to back-to-school takes place. Oftentimes, the new school year can mean heightened stress for children as they adjust to new friends, new teachers, a return to homework, and new and harder classes.  Getting back into the swing of things can be tough, even for the most resilient kids and parents.  Many parents, with busy work schedules and never-ending to-do lists, end up not finding the time to talk to their children about the upcoming school year and how to deal with the challenges they may be facing.

"It is crucial for parents to make time to talk with their children everyday after school to really get in touch with them," said Jill K. Spineti, President and CEO of The Governor's Prevention Partnership.  "Opening up that line of communication with a child is essential to making sure they are dealing with their stress in a safe and healthy way and for building a trusting relationship so they can turn to their parents when there is a problem. There's no doubt that children who are supported by caring parents and adults are more likely to succeed."

Heading back-to-school can be a particularly stressful time for many young people, and social anxiety and peer pressure are at the top of the list for youths' concerns.  According to a 2011 national study conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), when teens ages 12-17 were asked, "What is the most important problem facing people your age?", 24 percent of the teens responded drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) and 24 percent of teens responded social pressures, making them the two highest concerns of the surveyed teens. 

To help with these important issues and to ensure that youth stay safe, successful and drug-free, The Governor's Prevention Partnership is offering tips to parents and caregivers to make the transition of back to school a stress-free one.

Back To School Tips For Parents:

Find the right time to talk — Back-to-school preparations add to a parent's busy schedule, so it's important to plan ahead. A good way to fit important and effective conversations with your child into your schedule is to identify the times of the day when your child is most talkative. It may be while eating a meal, or when they get home from school, or right before bed. These will be the best times to initiate conversations with a child because it is when they will be most willing to participate so the conversation will be helpful for both the parent and child. 

Be available — One of the best things a parent or caregiver can do is be available and willing to listen to a child about their day at school or if problems or worries occur. While it is important for parents to initiate certain conversations, it is equally important to keep communication lines open even throughout the school year. Older children, in particular, may not always be willing to talk about their problems, but it is important to ensure that they know they have someone to go to with their problems.

Prepare for social pressures — While there is no way to completely eliminate social pressures from a child's life, a parent can better prepare their child by taking time to discuss possible scenarios they may face.  Also, by exposing children to a variety of social situations, and being available to talk with them about the challenges they may face in those situations will help them become better equipped to handle social pressures on their own.

Do not overreact — It is important for a parent to stay calm and collected (at least on the outside). Keeping a cool composure will help put a child at ease, and will prevent small problems from escalating. The best thing for a parent to do is to listen to the child and discuss the options available to solve the problem. This will not only teach the child to handle similar situations in the future, but it will also make them feel comfortable talking to their parents if other problems arise.

Know and utilize your resources — Sometimes a child's problems are too big for a parent to handle on their own, so it is important to know where to get assistance. If bullying is an issue a child is dealing with, it may be necessary for a parent to bring the issues to the school's attention. Every Connecticut school has a designated professional that both parents and students can bring their bullying issues to and can be assured that their issue will be handled in an appropriate and efficient manner. Additional information about resources for parents, including tips to prevent drug and alcohol use, can be found at www.preventionworksct.org.

Be positive and encouraging — While it is important for a parent to acknowledge any anxiety their child may be having, it is also important to highlight and focus on the positive aspects a new school year brings. Parents should encourage their children to try new extracurricular activities and clubs at school. Building up a child's self esteem and confidence will give them the courage to face the new school year with a positive attitude and the desire to succeed socially and academically.

The Governor's Prevention Partnership, the state affiliate for The Partnership at Drugfree.org,  is a statewide, nonprofit public-private alliance, building a strong, healthy future workforce through leadership in mentoring and prevention of youth violence and bullying, underage drinking, and substance abuse.  The Partnership is the only statewide organization focusing exclusively on prevention issues affecting youth.  Resources for parents, educators and young people related to each of the organization's program initiatives can be found on www.preventionworksct.org.

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