By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for Havre Daily News
The holiday season and school break are often associated with frenzied activity, but they are also a time when parents have the opportunity to spend more quality time with their children. On the heels of 2003, many parents are busy making New Year's resolutions. This year, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is urging parents to pledge to give their teens the priceless gift of time by remaining involved in their lives and scheduling meaningful family time throughout the year.
According to John P. Walters, director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, parents remain the most important influence on children, particularly when it comes to decisions about drugs. Research shows that spending time with your kids and talking to them about the dangers of marijuana and other illicit drugs are proven strategies for preventing drug use. School breaks provide a great opportunity for families to open dialogue with teens through activities like cooking, shopping, traveling or volunteering together.
In a world where 60 percent of us feel pressure to work too much and 80 percent want more family time, finding time to spend with your kids may seem challenging. But parents should also know that kids want more family time, too. When asked to pick one or two areas of their lives in which they would like to spend more time, half of the teenage students involved in the 2003-2004 State of Our Nation's Youth survey said they would like to spend more time with their families.
Each day more than 4,700 kids under age 18 try marijuana for the first time, often during unsupervised time afforded by after- school hours, school breaks and holidays. Research shows that marijuana can lead to a host of health, social, learning and behavioral problems at a crucial time in young lives. Marijuana can also be addictive. In fact, more teens are in treatment for marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Parents can make a difference by scheduling one-on-one time with their children. They can find an activity that their teens are interested in doing with them, such as serving food at a homeless shelter, going ice skating, or eating lunch at a new restaurant. Time spent with your teens is also an opportunity to talk to them about the dangers of marijuana use.
In addition, parents can also help keep their kids drug-free by starting an ongoing dialogue about the dangers of marijuana and other illicit drugs. Research shows that kids who learn about the risks of drug abuse from their parents or caregivers are about 36 percent less likely to smoke marijuana, 50 percent less likely to use inhalants, 56 percent less likely to use cocaine, and 65 percent less likely to use LSD than kids who don't. And two-thirds of youths ages 13-17 say upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs.
When talking to children about drugs, it is important for parents to send a clear message about staying away from marijuana. Research shows that teens of parents who strongly disapprove of trying marijuana are far less likely to have used marijuana in the past month than teens whose parents only somewhat disapprove or who expressed no clear opinion.
Parents can also make a difference by monitoring where their teens are, who they are with and setting rules with clear consequences for breaking them. Lower levels of marijuana use were found among teens whose parents monitor their activities and peer relationships, limit the time spent watching TV, give them responsibilities around the house, and recognize their teens' successes and good behavior.
Resources are available at www.TheAntiDrug.com to help parents prevent teen marijuana use. Parents visiting the site can send an e-card inviting their teens to join them in an activity. The site also offers weekly parenting tips via e-mail and a free pamphlet called "Keeping your Kids Drug-Free: A How-To Guide for Parents and Caregivers." The pamphlet can also be ordered by calling (800) 788-2800. Further information can be obtained by contacting the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.