It is never too early or inappropriate to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol and how those substances can destroy people s lives. The present research indicates that it is common for children as young as 11 years old to begin experimenting with alcohol. I would recommend starting to talk to your children even earlier.
If you feel ill-prepared for these conversations, join the countless parents across the country who feel the same. Don t panic and shut down. Educate yourself. There are abundant resources on the Web that are readable, understandable and accurate. One site - talkingwithkids.org is excellent; another is antidrug.com.
The drug and alcohol epidemic is here. It is not going away in the near future, unless parents move beyond their denial. Every community is battling this issue. Some are confronting it head-on, while others are burying their heads in the sand.
Our middle and high school students are drinking in record numbers. On the high school level, especially in upper-middle-class communities, juniors and seniors are hosting house parties. Some of them are even supervised by their parents. Parents justify their social tolerance by claiming that they just going to do it anyway, at least in my home they are safe. Keys are taken and no one is allowed to leave until the next morning.
When teenagers are confronted on this issue, their attitude is if I am a good student, a reasonable person and drink responsibly, what is the big deal?
Parents need to realize that the drug and alcohol epidemic does not have one specific profile. Kids from every social group are drinking and drugging. Honor students, athletes, good kids and fringe kids believe that drinking and smoking pot are two of their inalienable social rights. They will concede that hard-core drugs like coke, heroin and pills are dangerous. They will also admit that their use is on the rise among their peers.
This is not just a parent problem or a school problem, it is a community problem. Everyone has to work together. Parents have to be more diligent in their parenting. Schools have to hold students accountable for their social behavior and put an end to the double standards that are sometimes employed when implementing the student code of conduct.
If your star football player drinks and gets caught and the sanction is his suspension and sitting out two games, even if it puts the championship in jeopardy - so be it.
Our neighborhoods have to be vigilant regarding social behavior. We must be willing to confront businesses that are selling alcohol and cigarettes to underage teenagers. This behavior needs to be reported. Businesses need to know that as a community we will not tolerate such violations.
As parents, we must fight the parental urge to make excuses for our kids. We must monitor their social behavior. We need to know where they re going, what they re doing and who they re doing it with.
Communication is key. You do not need to smother them, but you do need to know what they are about. Keep the conversations going about their social behavior and their social decision-making. These conversations don t need to be confrontational. Continuously reinforce that you care. As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure at all times that your children are safe.
Don t be demeaning in your tone or your talk, don t put your children down or call them stupid. Remind them consistently that experimenting with street drugs and prescription medication can be lethal. Unfortunately, every local community has had a casualty because of this kind of reckless decision making on the part of our young.
Our present landscape is not going to be easy to navigate. Most of our kids who are using illegal substances when confronted are going to lie or distract you by admitting to occasional social drinking and smoking pot. Don t buy into that distraction!
Heroin unfortunately is present on every high school campus in Suffolk County, including all of our private schools. Remember kids are getting seduced by this lethal drug, because it s cheap and you don t have to inject it. You can snort it!
One time use can kill. Last December, one young man from our community came out of a rehab for a pill problem. Unfortunately, he felt he could still drink since drinking was never his drug of choice. He was making plans to go back to school in January. He was excited that his life was finally back on track.
He was invited to a Christmas party in New Jersey at community pub. To enter into the Christmas spirit, he had a few drinks. He went to the bathroom. While he was in the bathroom, a few guys his age came in. They started snorting heroin and offered him some. He tried it. They left the bathroom. He didn t. He died of a heroin overdose.
Too many young people are dying senselessly, because of reckless decision making. Parenting is difficult on a good day. As the number of heroin and prescription drug users increases, it only makes parenting even harder. We need to stand together. We need to support and educate each other on this lethal epidemic. We can arrest it. Let s begin now!