Prom and Graduation Season Puts Our Kids at Increased Risk from Drugs and Alcohol
posted by: Amber Johnson
Being a parent of school-age children has never been easy, and it certainly isn’t today. As a mom to girls aged 6 and 12, I know first-hand how hard it is to keep up with the messages your kids are getting about drugs and alcohol.
Whether via the internet, songs and music videos, TV shows, movies or magazines, or social media, kids are bombarded with communication about substance use. And, if we’re honest, we have to admit that many of the messages fall into the “just do it” category.
As we enter the prom and graduation season, the risk to our kids increases as the celebrations begin. During this time of year it’s more important than ever to talk with your kids or the young people in your life about drug and alcohol use, including prescription drug abuse. Don’t think of this conversation as “The Talk.” Instead, this needs to be an ongoing discussion because kids’ risk from substance use is ongoing.
I find it’s helpful to jump in when a show or song we are watching or listening to touches on substance use. If, for example, a show’s character is being offered marijuana I might say, “What would you do if you were her?” If there was a scene where drug use was present, I might say, “Do you think kids at your school are using drugs?”
The point is to look for an opening and then start an open dialogue. I try my best not to get too repetitive, but also know that it’s better to err on the side of talking too much rather than too little. The website speaknowcolorado.org offers great tips on how to start the conversation, no matter how old your kids are.
With my pediatric patients and their parents, I focus on what their goals are and how drug and alcohol use will interfere with these goals. “Soccer is a fun sport and I know you’re a great player. It’s good that you’re saying no to drugs and alcohol, because those things can really mess up your game. In fact, according to the journal Sports Medicine, athletes who drink more than double their chances of an injury compared to athletes who don’t.”
I often hear from parents that they don’t think their kids listen to them when they offer advice. I know it can feel that way, but research shows that your kids are listening. I urge parents to “load their kids’ lips” with reasons why they need to say no to offers of drugs or alcohol. Tell them to use you as the reason. “My parents are watching closely and I don’t want to get in trouble and miss the concert this weekend,” is a great response. Referring to their positive goals is good too. For example, “I have a big test coming up and I need every last brain cell to be firing, you know what I mean?”
Thank you for being that parent or caregiver who goes the extra mile to keep kids safe. Let’s see if we can all wake up on the morning after prom to stories of beautiful dresses and who was flirting with who.
Dr. Meister is a pediatrician at the Rocky Mountain Youth Clinic in Denver. In partnership with Mile High Mamas.