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The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Tuesday, July 07 2020 @ 08:43 PM EDT
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Tuesday, July 07 2020 @ 08:43 PM EDT
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine

Talk to your children about drug abuse

If you're like many parents of teenagers, there was probably a moment last night, as your child left to hang out with friends, when you wondered, "Where is she going?" or "What is he going to be doing?"

But then she came home safely, and he wasn't drunk when he walked through the door, so all's well with the world this morning.

Or is it?Experts say if parents aren't having crucial conversations with their teenagers - about sex and drugs and alcohol - they can pretend nothing's wrong. Some of those experts have all but begged parents to start talking.

A survey by VitalSmarts shows that most parents are afraid to talk to their teens.

"This poll reinforces a disconcerting trend we're seeing with parents today," said John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Too many parents are avoiding tough conversations - or tough stances - because they're afraid of jeopardizing their relationship with their teen. Parents must follow through on their responsibilities and set clear rules against drug use."

The survey shows:

- More than half of parents surveyed believe their teen goes to parties where drugs are available.

- Nearly half believe their teen has friends who use drugs.

Despite that, few parents are doing anything about it:

- Almost six in 10 parents surveyed admit to having some degree of difficulty in getting their teens involved in meaningful conversations about their concerns, such as who their friends are, how they dress and how school is going.

- Nearly eight in 10 have difficulty getting their teens to respond and are not sure their teens listen.

- Half the parents said the strategy they most often use to monitor their teens' activities is to stock the fridge so teens and their friends will be more likely to hang out at home.

- Fewer than one in 10 said they are checking up on their teen.

- Only two in 10 are asking questions to try to find out what's going on when it comes to drugs.

VitalSmarts, a company that created Crucial Conversations Training for corporations and published the New York Times best-selling book, "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High" (McGraw-Hill, $17) invited its 50,000 newsletter subscribers to participate in the survey and, though it only received 605 responses, few would question that the results speak for thousands of worried mothers and fathers.

"There are three specific challenges this generation of parents face," said Alison Birnbaum, a social worker and parenting expert, during a Web-based press conference. "In order to have meaningful conversations regarding drugs and in order to set limits firmly, parents must overcome these obstacles.

Birnbaum said the first problem is that parents become overinvolved in their children's lives and social successes.

"They want their child to achieve popularity because that is seen as marker in our culture for happiness and success. Unfortunately, in order to achieve this goal of popularity, some parents - actually many parents - see partying and drug experience as inevitable."

The second challenge for parents, Birnbaum said, is that they don't like to criticize or police their kids.

And the third challenge, she said, is overindulging children "with material things that (parents) feel will capture the loyalty and attention of the child. And this leads to a superficial rather than a deep involvement with the child's developing self."

VitalSmart's co-founder Joseph Grenny said: "There isn't a more crucial parenting conversation than talking to a teenager about drugs. And most parents feel entirely inadequate, so they procrastinate it or speak up badly."

Not a good idea, say Grenny and others, given these statistics:

- The number of youths age 12-17 admitted to substance abuse treatment increased 43 percent between 1994 and 2004. The increase was largely attributed to those entering treatment for marijuana dependency.

- While White House Office of National Drug Control Policy research shows that, from 2001 to 2005, illicit drug use and marijuana use declined 19 percent among teens when asked if they'd use those drugs "during the past month," the research also shows that, every day, more than 3,000 young people ages 12-17 try marijuana for the first time.

So the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's "Critical Conversations" campaign is designed to equip parents with the skills they need to have the talk.

"Silence isn't golden. It's permission," begins the Open Letter to Parents, signed by 10 family and medical organizations and published this week in newspapers and magazines around the country.

"It's probably not just 'going to come up,' but a conversation about the risks of drug use has to occur between you and your teen.

Parents can visit www.theantidrug.com for more information.

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