I have worked as Prevention Specialist for over 20 years. I came from a law enforcement background in Salt Lake City. While in both fields I have worked with families and their children and sometimes under very awkward and uncomfortable circumstances. Many parents during these times “wish” they had said or done something sooner and also state how surprised they were. Although they realize that most of the time this was not a single event nor did it just happen overnight it still seems surreal to them and they are still in disbelief that this unforeseen thing has happened.
I have taught parenting classes as well and educational programs in the schools and communities. As I have seen programs come and go over the years like the “Just Say No” prevention program early in my career, the strengthening Families and love and logic parenting programs; there has been one theme that overrides them all, TALK TO YOUR KIDS / PARENTS about tough issues. When we look at and compare the overwhelming statistics about how much time we spend talking to our kids per week, 9 hours for men and 15 for women, versus watching TV 35+ hours a week, it is no wonder how surprised many are when their child winds up in dire circumstances. As many teachers and administrators have said the parents they want, and need to see and talk to the most, often never come to back to school night or even parent teacher conferences. Then when they get the call because their child is failing school, truant or worse and are forced to, it is a total surprise to them.
I have written a book called “I am Scared” I have others I have written yet to be published about how to start conversations with your children at an early age and read with them often, and I also do a radio program every Tuesday and Wednesday talking about tough social issues. (listen @ www.ksub590.com ) Former Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske has stated “Talk to your kids about drugs. Research shows parents are the best messengers to deliver critical information on drug use. Make sure they know of the harms that can result from drug use and that you don't approve of them. For tips and parenting advice visit www.TheAntiDrug.com.” I have in my book made a plea to parents to talk to their children about all kind of social and personal issues. I have also written this book and the forth coming book to get parent to read with their children and talk about the issues in the book the characters were having. I have included in the book some questions to start the conversations.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not. We have seen a growing body of research that say reading with our kids will help us build a strong life time bonds with them. It increases trust and opens up avenues of communication. It also helps us explore with them answers to tough questions you may not even have imagined they were thinking about. I also say in my book that the first time you talk to your kid about tough issues shouldn’t be when it is upon them.
“As we seek so shall we find” when they have a question you don’t have an answer for, find it with them, show them you care, let them know how important they are by giving your time. Communication is the key to preventing adolescent drug, alcohol use and also reducing the risk of teen suicides and teenage pregnancy. The time you spend with your children matters more to them than any gift you’ll ever buy them. Fads and fashion come and go but your love and togetherness are priceless. I know that discussing social issues and skills necessary to help them develop healthy, resilient skills is not the easiest thing to do. You may feel it is too difficult and you may feel that you lack the skills and ability to answer effectively and accurately their tough questions. There is help, there are answers and saying “I don’t know” is not a crime nor is it anything to be ashamed of. Not seeking the answers together is never the best method, or saying that “…it is better if we talk about this when…” your older? you’ve done it? You’re in jail? When is better than now! Don’t wait to talk about the tough stuff, now is the best time. Turn off all the stuff and spend the time with them learning together, the only thing you’ve got to lose if you don’t is their future!
Mrs. Herbert’s Uplift Families website is just one more tool we can use to help our families remain strong. Together we can optimistically lead this next generation in to a healthy, happy, sane future. Laws get passed and legislation may change, yes this is cause for concern of course, but with clear standards and a consistent a message of love and support, they’ll know what is the right choice, legal, healthy or otherwise. We can win this fight and are doing very well in Prevention Science, we have proven practices that reduce risk factors we also have seen that increasing protective factors will lead to healthy and safe schools and communities, but as Director Kerlikowske put it YOU are their Anti-Drug! Remember!
- Set clear standards
- Monitor your child’s friends, behavior and whereabouts and
- Most importantly BE THERE to bond together a lifetime of memories.
This will not be easy but it will be the best decision you’ve ever made and the payoff will be amazing!!!
So, as I say on my radio show, An Ounce of Prevention, “…NOW GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING AWESOME…”
By LaMar Macklin II P.S.
Prevention Specialist Iron County Utah, Southwest Behavioral Health Center www.southwestprevention.com