How parents can help their children


By Julie Willoughby - Contributing columnist



It’s the job of schools, families, and communities to teach our youth “the knowledge and skills necessary to resist drugs and alcohol” (Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education, 2017). This article focuses on what parents and guardians can do to prevent drug and alcohol use in their children.

So, how can we keep our kids safe from drugs and other dangerous substances? Unfortunately, the answer is you can’t completely shelter your child from these dangers. You can do your best as a parent to educate and problem solve with your child; but in the end, it is up to your child. There are many children, teens, and young adults who make poor choices but who also have parents that did their very best to protect and educate their children from the world’s dangers.

As a parent myself, I’ve been scared and done my best to scare my own children of the dangers of poor decisions. When I read an obituary of a teen that died in a car accident, the article got cut out, left on the kitchen counter, talked about at supper, and later taped up to the refrigerator for further review. We will then talk about what could have caused the accident and think about how accidents like that could be avoided. I listen to horror stories of others in conversations or on the news; and if I hear of a new type of danger, we are soon talking about it. Most of the time I’m talking to them, and they may or may not be listening but I hope they are.

The website, Start Talking, Building a Drug-Free Future (2017), encourages parents to keep up the good fight stating, “Children of parents who talk to their teens about drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use.” If I have a 50 percent better chance of keeping my kids out of trouble by talking to them than not talking to them, I’ve got to take that shot. Below are some tips for parents directly taken from the website Start Talking, Building a Drug-Free Future (2017).

After reading this list, the reader can quickly point out some things I did right and some mistakes I’ve made as a parent. My kids will tell you I’m not perfect; but hey, I’m trying. I got some great ideas from the tips below that I plan on incorporating into my bag of parenting tricks. Hope you get some good ideas too as you fight the good fight for your kids, teens, and young adults.

Start Talking! Tips for Parents: Talking to Your Kids About Drugs

Talk frequently: Make it a habit to talk with your child daily about everyday stuff. Once you have made it a routine to talk about normal, everyday activities, it is easier to steer conversations to more intense discussions about drug use. Talking to your kids about drugs is not a one-time conversation, it should be a regular part of your weekly routine.

Show interest: Give your child your full attention when they’re talking. Be interested and listen to what they are saying. Show that you are willing to take them seriously and their comments and opinions matter.

Be careful what you say: Avoid being judgmental or talking down to them once your child expresses thoughts or feelings about drug use. Even if you do not agree, be willing to hear your child’s viewpoint and allow him or her to express it without criticism.

Be careful how you say it: Be aware of your tone of voice and body language. Sometimes it isn’t what we say but how it’s said. Avoid sounding shocked, angry or disgusted by comments your child may make. Remember, these conversations are difficult for your child too, and they may not have the conversational skills to express everything they want to say in the most mature way.

Be careful what you say: Avoid being judgmental or talking down to them once your child expresses thoughts or feelings about drug use. Even if you do not agree, be willing to hear your child’s viewpoint and allow him or her to express it without criticism.

Know the facts about drugs/alcohol/tobacco: The more you know about substance abuse, the more confident you will be when conversing with your child. The Parent 360 RX program is good way to learn updated information on drugs and alcohol and what kids may be experiencing and hearing away from home. Experts say informed parents are more successful in their talks with kids.

Be respectful and genuine: Respect what your child has to say and be fully engaged in the conversation. Be sincere in your reactions and honestly interested in their viewpoint. Kids are more likely to talk about drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, if they know their comments will be listened to and valued.

They talk you listen: Avoid interrupting your child as they talk. Resist lecturing when it’s your turn to talk.

Scare tactics don’t work: Prevention experts advise that scare tactics and over-dramatic statements will not get the attention of your child. Consistent, calm and frequent conversations on the topic are a far better way to go.

Control your emotions: If the talk gets heated and you show anger or frustration, the child will likely stop the conversation. Set emotions aside, listen carefully, offer facts, experience and expectations without harsh judgment.

Take advantage of teachable moments: These moments occur every day. You’re listening to the radio or watching TV, an ad comes on, or situation, or news item, involving drugs or alcohol. Use that to bring up the topic and get your child’s reaction. Another good time is when you’re in the car. The child is a captive audience. No one is forced to look face-to-face and may feel comfortable to talk freely.

If you are in need of help or know someone in need of help for a drug addiction, below are some current resources in Shelby County that might be of assistance:

• Catholic Social Services (Mental Health/Addictions Outpatient) — 937-498-4593;

• Counseling for Wellness (Mental Health Outpatient) — 937-492-9355;

• Empowered for Excellence Behavioral Health Sidney — 121 E North St. Sidney, 937- 492-0183;

• FOA- Families of Addicts (Support- Locations Vary) — 937-307-5479;

• Family Resource Center of Northwest OH — 937-710-4616;

• Dr. Fred Sacks PhD & Associates, Dr. Sara Pleiman (Mental Health Outpatient) — 937-492-9900;

• SafeHaven, Inc.- HOPE Line 937-451-3232 or 855-276-4673, 937-658-6930;

• Salvation Army (Other Recovery Services) — 937-492-8412;

• Samaritan Works (Other Recovery Services) — 937-492-9136, ext. 108;

• Shelby County Counseling Center (Mental Health/Addictions Outpatient, Other Recovery Services — Sliding fee scale basis dependent on household income) — 937-492-8080;

• Sidney-Shelby Co. Health Dept. — 937-498-7249;

• Shelby County Recovery Home (Other Recovery Services- Sliding fee scale basis dependent on household income) — 937-497-7355;

• Wilson Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health Center (Other Recovery Services) — 937-498-5578.

This is one article in a series of articles written with the backing of the Shelby County Drug Task Force Education and Prevention Committee with the goal of increasing awareness and developing supports to prevent heroin use.

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By Julie Willoughby

Contributing columnist

Julie Willoughby, Ph.D., is a parent advocate for Shelby County Opiate Task Force Education and Prevention Committee. She also is the principal of Urbana North Elementary School.

Julie Willoughby, Ph.D., is a parent advocate for Shelby County Opiate Task Force Education and Prevention Committee. She also is the principal of Urbana North Elementary School.

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