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Cary Quashen: Silence isn’t golden

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Posted: September 12, 2009 2:54 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Substance use disorders have taken an enormous toll on the health and well-being of too many Americans. It has also taken its toll on Santa Clarita Valley residents, especially teens.

While I hate the one month out of a year educational process (I believe education takes place on a daily basis with teachable moments), it’s a perfect time to send a community message about teaching our kids to make positive choices and thinking twice before using drugs and alcohol.

With that in mind, the ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Program and your hometown newspaper, The Signal, have teamed up to sponsor a series of newspaper ads educating parents about teen marijuana and prescription drug use.

There is a total of five ads, which will run on Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays. You may find them shocking, but you might also learn something new.

Tear them out of the newspaper and use them as a teaching tool. Start a discussion, be ready to instruct, but also to listen and learn.

If I could have named this year’s campaign myself, I would have called it “Silence isn’t golden. It’s permission.” Silence is the biggest killer of parent and teen relationships, especially when it comes to talking about drug use.

Some of you might even be hoping the conversation never comes up.

It’s probably not just going to “come up,” but a conversation about the risks of drug use has to occur between you and your teen. Since you are the parent, it begins with you.

The good news is that with a little practice and a little preparation, you will find it’s a conversation that gets easier each time, and could very well save the life of your teen.

Talking early and often is the key to capturing teachable moments. Kids are tempted to use alcohol, illicit drugs, and intentionally misuse prescription drugs at much younger ages than you would like to believe.

The key is to discuss and agree on boundaries like curfews and choice of friends before negative influences can grab hold.

Also, monitor your teens’ activities by checking text messages, MySpace and other social media sites.

If the rules and restrictions are put in place early, they will be easier to enforce later on.

Now that you’re off to a good start, it’s also important to remember that it’s not just whether you talk to your kids about drugs, but how you talk to them about drugs.

It’s important to set a positive tone when your discussion begins. You must start with the facts, not judgments.

Avoid using accusatory language, and never call them names or label them. Let your teen know that you love them, and you are worried that he or she could be tempted to use drugs and alcohol.

Talk about the serious consequences that come from drug and alcohol use. Make sure your teen knows and understands you have family rules and these rules do not permit drug use.

Ask if their friends are using and how are they handling that. Given them reasons to say no.

Then talk some more. It’s not going to be a one-time conversation. The key is to keep discussing, keep asking, and keep monitoring your teens as they grow up and encounter different situations.

And while it might get repetitive and frustrating, it will also get easier, more comfortable and inevitably give you and your teen a better understanding of each other.

The truth is that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs.

Unfortunately, less than one-third of teens actually do get their drug education from their parents and that needs to change.

You matter. Parents are the most powerful influence on their teens when it comes to drug use. Not friends. Not school. You. And it’s up to you to be proactive and use that influence early and often.

It’s a conversation that needs to happen so that your teenager knows where you stand on this critical issue.

Remember: Silence isn’t golden. It’s permission. Educate early and often. Start a conversation with your teen today.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and ACTION Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol treatment programs. He can be reached at (661) 713-3006. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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