While parents often feel like the teacher in Charlie Brown when they’re talking to their teens, the truth is that what they say matters. And kids are listening.
Sure, they might glaze over after the tenth time you’ve asked them to clean their room this week, but when it comes to drugs and alcohol, they are listening.
“What you say and do matters,” said Dr. Marvin Krank, who recently gave a public presentation at Vernon Secondary School titled Talking To Your Kids About Drugs.
A professor of psychology, Krank’s research focuses on the development of substance abuse in teens and young adults. Over the past 20 years, he has studied the unrealistic thoughts and beliefs held by youth that lead to risky substance use and he will share that evidence at the presentation.
Along with being a good role model, Krank urges parents to set clear expectations.
That means setting no use expectations, not telling kids that it’s OK to have a little.
“When we say that, all they hear is marijuana and alcohol are OK,” said Doug Rogers, substance abuse prevention counsellor for the Vernon School District.
“The mixed messages are really tough for kids.
“Things need to be very clear for kids.”
Things have changed in the past decade with increased knowledge around how a parent’s relaxed rules can impact a youth’s behaviour.
“Now we know through research that the messaging we give to kids is ‘they’re allowed to use,’” said Rogers of any accepted drug or alcohol use.
“We also know that the earlier kids start the more likely they are to continue into adulthood.”
Along with setting clear expectations, Krank reminds parents: “We need to tell them more than what not to do.”
He offers seven rules:
1. Model low risk use
2. Set clear no substance use expectations
3. Monitor: Ask about where they are going, who they are going with and what they are going to do
4. Be supportive; listen and empathize
5. Ask questions about the risks
6. Encourage healthy alternatives
7. Accept mistakes as learning experiences
“Contrary to appearances, they need you more than ever,” said Krank.
Rogers is pleased with the turnout of the recent presentation, with close to 100 parents, students and teachers attending.
“It was outstanding. A lot of families came and the kids were listening because it’s always nice to hear from someone different than your parents.”