Having raised three of his own, Marvin Krank understands the trials and tribulations of the teenage years.
Often the most dreaded time for parents, the teen years bring up all sorts of fears as children emerge into adolescence. Along with attitude changes, many teens tread into new waters, exploring and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
“So what can you do in the face of all of this?” asks Krank, professor of psychology and dean of the College of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.
To help parents navigate the teen years, Krank will present, Teens and Substance Abuse – Parents Matter, at Vernon Secondary School Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.
He will describe some of the risks children will face and give parents some practical advice on how to best support teens through the dangerous times.
“So they are more likely to make better choices,” said Krank, who has a great personal interest in the subject and has studied adolescent substance use for 15 years.
Krank studies the transition from non-use to use – trying to get a grasp of why drugs and alcohol are used.
“It’s an evolving trend, it is a trend that isn’t necessarily growing,” said Krank, who was also an academic voice in drafting the Portfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention.
“It’s largely influenced, I believe, by broad society forces, which you’re not going to be able to change.”
He has studied media and advertising and the messages they send to youth.
“Your Grade 11 students is watching a specific number of alcohol commercials,” said Krank, who in a recent study of The Simpsons and Family Guy he found approximately eight advertisements for alcohol.
There is also a high number of influencing factors in social networking.
“Nearly 100 per cent of our kids are using Facebook now,” said Krank of the popular networking website.
“(On Facebook) you can become a friend of Captain Morgan and it doesn’t ask you how old you are.”
These influences can lead teens to some of the choices they make, whether it be experimenting with drugs or making getting drunk the goal of the weekend.
Krank advises: “Don’t panic if it happens.”
The earlier parents talk to their children, the better, explains Krank.
“It’s not too early in Grade 6 or 7 to be ready to answer some questions. They’re going to hear about them from different sources and they start thinking about it before they actually start doing anything.”
So whether a youth has started experimenting or is just thinking about it, what parents say and do can help children navigate the uncertain new waters.
While teenage years can be difficult for parents, Krank reminds that they are no walk in the park for teens either.
“It’s a very difficult time for kids to go through, physically, mentally, neurologically and socially,” he said, adding that if you asked someone if they could be one age, “nobody picks 16.”
Krank does not claim to be a perfect parent.
“There’s some things that I did wrong and some things I learned,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes. They (my kids) have made mistakes too. But they’ve made it through that time period.”
With his own experience and education, Krank will help parents realize that they are not alone in their journeys.
And he will give them some tools to make it through.