Did you know that the people who have the most influence over whether kids use drugs are not their peers?
Believe it or not, parents have the most impact when a kid is deciding whether or not to use drugs.
That's why parent education around drug and alcohol use is as crucial as what's being taught to kids, says Lisa Sharp, manager for prevention and intervention at Seattle Public Schools.
Seattle students are introduced to drugs and alcohol prevention in 7th grade, as part of their science curriculum. Many schools use Project Alert, an evidence-based substance abuse prevention program that focuses on teaching kids skills and strategies to resist intoxicants and demonstrates the short- and long-term impact of drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol are revisited in 9th grade, during one semester of health class.
But, according to Sharp, involving families while kids are still young is the key to success.
Guiding Good Choices is a curriculum for families, designed to strengthen family bonds and set clear standards around drug and alcohol use. A number of Seattle schools offer evening workshops to teach this curriculum to parents over a period of several weeks.
Sharp says the legalization of marijuana has led to changes in adolescent attitudes about drugs. "We've seen an increase in student use and changes in the perception of the harm caused by drugs and alcohol," she says. "We are trying to educate parents through PTA-sponsored events and train our staff so they understand the new laws and the new products that are out there, such as marijuana vaporizers."
Sharp is pleased by the growth in anti-drug coalitions and community-based groups that are helping to address specific concerns.
Still, she says the best form of prevention is conversations between adults and kids.
"Sit down and really talk to your kids. But don't just do it once. This is a topic that needs to be revisited."
My parents are the reason I choose not to do drugs.
How to help your kids just say no to drugs
- Ask them about drug use among their friends and at school.
- Clarify your own values around drugs and alcohol and clearly explain these to your kids. Often, parents mistakenly think kids know how we feel about drug and alcohol use.
- Don't just have one conversation. Revisit the topic, as your kids get older.
- Help your kids navigate the changing drug landscape and reward them (with quality time) when they stick to the rules.
Keeping family bonds strong and giving kids the tools they need to get out of sticky situations is the best prevention against substance abuse.