Parents: start talking | ParkRecord.com

Parents: start talking

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Just talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol does a lot to prevent abuse, say experts Kathy Meyer and Diane Cashel. Knowing where they’re at and who they’re with also makes a big difference.

That’s why Meyer, a social worker with Valley Mental Health, and Cashel, a school counselor at Treasure Mountain International School, are holding a Parent-Teen Forum on April 21 at the school from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The event is for all teenagers and parents of teenagers and will feature a panel of experts including counselors, pediatricians and law enforcement officials as well as students who themselves suffered from problems and have recovered.

"The purpose is to talk about under-age drinking and drug use and how parents and teens can start a dialogue about this issue," Meyer explained. "It can be difficult for parents to know how to start the discussion."

Problems generally arise during the middle-school years. Both said parents are often unaware of what kinds of activities their children are exposed to in social situations. It’s not necessarily that parents are uncomfortable talking about drugs and alcohol, but that they frequently don’t even think about having those serious discussions.

"Some parents might be a bit naïve," Myers said. "Parents aren’t always aware of what their child is doing."

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But underage drinking is serious, so teens and their parents need good information about the ramifications, they said.

The brains of teenagers are not yet fully developed so drinking has serious physical ramifications. A pediatrician will be present to give the specifics, Cashel said.

Law enforcement will address the seriousness of underage drinking from a legal perspective. Sometimes more can happen than just losing a spot on athletic teams and getting expensive tickets.

"Our job is to educate parents and teens about these issues and we want them both to come so they aren’t surprised," Cashel added.

One of the most valuable aspects of the panel will be the students, Myers said. The kids will come prepared to talk about what would have helped them not make the decisions they made.

The forum will be informal and will not be preachy, Cashel said. Every parent takes a different approach to helping their children make good choices. The forum is meant to provide good information to facilitate that process, not tell adults how it should be done.

For example, it’s important to discuss alcohol as well as marijuana and tobacco as "gateway" drugs to more dangerous ones. Harder drugs are always present and if kids talk about these issues with their mom and dad they’re more likely to think twice about experimenting, they said.

Another goal of the panel is to introduce community resources to parents. Sometimes those are as simple as after-school programs and other activities to keep teenagers engaged.

The forum is part of Valley Mental Health’s larger efforts to promote prevention in area schools.

"It’s important to know the full spectrum of what can happen with one bad choice," Myers said.

Desserts will be available and students can earn extra credit in health and physical-education classes for attending.

Parent-Teen Forum

April 21

Treasure Mountain International School

7 to 8:30 p.m. No RSVP needed


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