Parents have more influence over their child than friends, music, TV, the Internet and celebrities. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true.
Thoughtful Parenting: Youth Services
This weekly column about parenting issues is written by area youth-serving professionals. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, national surveys of youths ages 12 to 17 show that teens who think their parents strongly would disapprove of their substance use were less likely to use substances than others.
That is why it is critical to start talking with your children about the dangers of drugs, before they start experimenting — and keep talking.
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a regional nonprofit organization that works to promote healthy lifestyles for youths, has created four ways to help keep kids drug-free.
These four methods are bundled into an easy-to-remember acronym: MALT, which stands for "Model Good Behavior, Offer Alternatives, Lock Up Alcohol and Drugs and Talk to Your Kids Often."
Some examples of each method are below:
M: Model Good Behavior
• Never drive impaired by alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.
• Drink responsibly and within recommended limits.
• Offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages at parties; if every party you host has alcohol, kids will begin to think that they also need alcohol for a party.
• If you are using prescription drugs, talk to your kids about why you are taking them, and follow your doctor's prescription.
• If you use tobacco, explain that you are trying or want to quit; talk about the addictive properties of nicotine to help your child understand how difficult an addiction can be.
• Never provide alcohol to minors. It's illegal! And in Steamboat Springs, so is hosting a party for underage drinkers; knowingly providing a place for underage drinking to occur could cost you $500 or more under the Social Host Ordinance.
A: Offer Alternatives
The Search Institute has created the 40 Developmental Assets model, which helps us see which positive influences a child needs in their life to grow up "healthy, caring and responsible." A few of the 40 Developmental Assets are listed here, and a full list can be downloaded at www.search-institute.org.
• Positive adult role models/mentors
• Service to others (one or more hours per week)
• Youth programs (three or more hours per week)
• Connection with a faith-based community
L: Lock Up Alcohol and Drugs
• Monitor or secure alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs if you have them in your home;
• Keep them in a locked cabinet; and
• Keep a count of bottles and amounts.
T: Talk to Your Kids Often
• Start talking about the effects and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs early, around fourth or fifth grade.
• Talk often; we recommend having discussions four to five times per year.
• Set clear expectations, rules and consequences related to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs; if rules are broken, follow through with consequences.
Visit www.speaknowcolorado.org for other ways to connect with your teens.
Kate Elkins is the Routt County programs director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, whose mission is to create and support healthy, positive lifestyle choices as alternatives to substance abuse for our youth and in our community. Read more about MALT at www.grandfutures.org/malt. Elkins is a member of the Routt County Youth Services Coalition, whose website can be found at www.youthinroutt.org.