State governments are providing guidance and information for parents and communities in a nation deeply concerned about the prevalence of drug use and substance abuse among young people, especially during prom and graduation season.
Sponsored by Colorado’s Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health, Speak Now Colorado urging parents to take proactive measures to prevent underage alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use. The program is timely for prom and graduation season, but the parental messages need to start earlier and be delivered repeatedly in conversations throughout the year. Robert Valuck, Ph.D., professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, was quoted in a press release saying, “It’s especially important to have open and honest communication with your kids about what they will do if they encounter alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs at a party, how to say no to getting in the car with an impaired driver, and the need for them to call for a ride to be safe. Ultimately, it’s about encouraging our kids to make smart choices while they celebrate.”
Parents today, faced with a strong youth culture, may feel that their influence has become diminished, but research has shown that youngsters are three times less likely to binge drink if a parent feels it’s wrong. “We often assume that our kids aren’t listening to us, but the research shows us otherwise. Kids are listening and what you say to them matters. Our mantra is ‘speak now, speak often,” said Dr. Valuck.
The state of Virginia publishes a guide called “Celebrate Life! A Guide For Planning All-Night, Alcohol/Drug-Free Celebrations For Teens.” It’s a long and detailed compilation of ideas and comments from parents, school personnel, community members, and high school graduates, as well as people and groups that have planned alcohol- and drug-free celebrations. The suggestions can be very helpful.
Above all, there’s no substitute for open communication between parents and teens about drug and alcohol use, and the positive impact of talking about the facts and the dangers. Colorado’s “Speak Now” campaign may serve as a model for other states.