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What’s going on with them?!! So what’s a parent to DO?!! Working Through Difficult Situations Listen Can’t I just ground them until they’re 19?!! What about the rest of us?!! Five Golden Rules of Discipline • More Information


What’s going on with them?!! Hormonal changes put teens in a position where they do not always have control of their own behaviour. The brain is still developing (and will be until about mid-20’s). One of the last areas to mature is the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs all sorts of necessary abilities like planning, reasoning, impulse control, judgment, and organization (Embrett, 2010). Teens seem to be able to weigh out the pros of a situation quite well, however many of the negative aspects get overlooked causing them to want to take risks. At times it seems like teens ‘rebel’ just to make adults angry, but for the most part if you stay calm and tell yourself it’s not personal you will defuse a potential battle. You can’t have an argument if only one person is arguing. Teens strive to figure out who they are and who/where they fit in the world. The drive for independence is a dominant force in their life and their friends’ advice, thoughts and opinions rule. They may not be an adult yet, but telling them that will not benefit either of you. Teens want to make all their own decisions, even with things they’re not quite ready to do (ie; drinking and sex). Talking with youth about substances in a constructive manner takes a lot of patience, understanding and respect for what they’re going through as their hormones, bodies and brains develop and strive to find individualism and balance. The PIER (Peers, Information, Education, and Resources) Project through Addiction Services of Thames Valley summarized six don’ts of having a conversation with youth about substances that were voiced by youth across Elgin and Oxford Counties in the 2009-2010 study.

They are:

Did you know?

1 Don’t Harass – Give space and time 2 Don’t Smother – Let them come to you and show you care and want to talk

“And like a lot of kids they are scared that if they tell their parents that their parents are going to tell them they can’t hang out with certain friends” – Female, Youth

Parents who talk to their children and monitor their activities can reduce the likelihood of their children using drugs”

3 Don’t Over-react – Be calm and open to options

“Don’t freak out on us, that is the worst thing to do” – Male, Youth

(Health Canada, Talking with Your Teen about Drugs)

4 Don’t Criticize – Respect their choices and understand their reason

“Well, most of the time when parents ask you, you don’t know whether to be honest with them ‘cause you don’t know how they are going to take it right. ‘Cause they could just be asking and then you tell the truth and then they freak out on you” – Male, Youth 5 Don’t jump to conclusions – Listen and let them explain

“Just be calm about it and don’t come at us like we are some sort of criminal or something” – Female, Youth 6 Don’t be afraid – Ask and let them explain

What’s going on with them?!!


So what’s a parent to DO?!! A healthy relationship with your teen requires communication; teens have valuable things to say and, when a parent listens genuinely, it helps self-esteem and confidence. The most important thing to remember when it comes to talking about difficult subjects like drinking and drugs is that it's not a five-minute "talk" — it's about building an ongoing dialogue. As your children grow up, they will need more and more information, so start early and build on the conversation as your teen matures (The Anti-Drug.com).

Start with active LISTENING and open COMMUNICATION

Know that as a Parent you Matter! Parents are the most powerful influence on their teens when it comes to drug use. Not friends. Not school. You! And it’s up to you to be proactive and use that influence early and often. It’s a conversation that needs to happen so that your teenager knows where you stand on this critical issue.

It’s not always easy but here are some TIPS to help you TALK with your TEEN: Listen to their concerns and take his or her questions and concerns seriously. When listening give them your full attention – if the phone rings don’t answer it and turn off the TV. Your teen needs to know that they are important and take priority. Start early and talk often. Your opinion on drugs should be the first one they hear- your child should learn about the dangers of drugs from parents first. This initial perspective will help them form their own opinion in the future. Talk regularly not just about drugs but other subjects as well. If you talk to your teen about stuff on a regular basis, when the time comes to talk about drugs it may feel more natural. Make a habit of talking about whatever makes your teen happy (sports, music, clothes, TV, movies, books, etc). Ask questions and learn what’s going on. Try to eat together as much as possible. Meal times are a great opportunity to talk. Use facts, not judgement. When you present the facts, you obligate your teen to respond to the information. When you use judgments or accusatory language, it appears you intend simply to humiliate or punish, and your teen feels no obligation to engage in the conversation. Offer your opinion without lecturing or judging. Know that you may hear something with which you disagree. Avoid statements like, “That’s stupid.” or “You’re wrong.” Try saying, “I hear you, but this is how I see it...” Be clear on where you stand – make sure that your teen understands that you have a definite position on drugs and this is how you will be measuring their behaviour (Health Canada, Talking with Your Teen about Drugs). Share with them what your values are and why. Be specific about what ‘overdoing it’ means and don’t forget to emphasize that underage drinking and drugs are illegal (even the misuse of prescription medications). You can expect that mistakes will be made and a certain level of experimentation will take place but if you’ve set clear boundaries the majority of youth stay relatively close to those. If you are a completely permissive parent you are opening the door for increased risk of substance abuse (Underwood, 2010). Answer questions directly and honestly. If you have made a mistake admit it, being able to admit when you are wrong and saying “I’m sorry” is powerful for your teen to hear and demonstrates how to be accountable for your actions.

So what’s a parent to DO?!!


Working Through Difficult Situations Time is the best solution for working through difficult situations your teen may have gotten themselves into (ie; coming home under the influence of alcohol or drugs) your best bet is to walk away or sleep on it, after making sure they are medically safe to do so (ie; alcohol poisoning? Overdose? Suicidal?) and discuss the incident first thing in the morning or once everyone’s had a chance to calm down (Underwood, 2010). Your first question: “why?” or “what happened?” in a conversational tone and let them tell their story. After LISTENING you can decide if the incident deserves a consequence and at what level of consequence. Asking your youth what consequences they feel are appropriate and negotiating from there encourages them to take accountability for their actions and enhances the lines of communication. Consequences are a part of life, but they need to make sense and have limits. “Forbidding us from ever seeing certain people or friends again in attempt to control our lives or substance use most often backfires and intensifies the situation” Female youth, Elgin County. “If they’re going to punish me like I used heroine when I tried some weed, then I might as well do the crime” Female youth, Elgin County. “Youth that get jumped on go underground very quickly” (Today’s Parent, 2010). When youth were asked about parent’s communication with youth about drugs a consistent comment resonates across Elgin and Oxford Counties: “don’t freak out on us that is the worst thing to do” (PIER Project, 2010). DO NOT LECTURE, they already know what they did wrong. Simply: “here’s the consequence, I love you, goodbye”. You want to be in discussion mode, not raving lunatic mode. If you fly off the handle, you lose negotiating power. “I hate it when I do something wrong and I get in trouble for it but then it is continually brought up; why can’t they (parents) just leave it in the past?!” Female, Oxford County. If you do find yourself getting caught by your heart and reacting emotionally and say something you regret, APOLOGIZE. If you said something or did something you feel was a mistake the sooner you let your kid know that, the better (Underwood, 2010). Explaining that you were scared and reacted to that, they will respect you MORE and develop healthy boundaries around arguments. You may find it helpful to be aware of your own reactions and emotions. Sometimes what your teen may say will surprise you. Take time and think about how you would react and respond to your teen in various scenarios, this will prevent you from “flying off the handle” and saying things you may later regret (The Anti-Drug.com).

Working Through Difficult Situations


Having trouble finding the time to talk to your teen about drugs? Does it feel like sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day? Sometimes it's frustrating how few chances there are to have conversations about drugs with our children. Families today are living in a very busy culture, juggling the multiple demands of work, school, after-school activities, and religious and social commitments. Because of our busy schedules it can be a challenge for parents and children to be in the same place at the same time. Yet the better you communicate, the more at ease your teen will feel about discussing drugs and other sensitive issues with you. (The Anit-Drug.com) Anytime can be a good time to talk to your teen about drugs. When you decide to use a moment to teach your teen something about drugs, it doesn’t have to be a long, serious talk — just a few words can do. And it’s not a talk you have to have only once. Have it regularly. Take advantage of everyday TEACHABLE MOMENTS (like the ones listed below) to discuss the topic of drugs. Movie character – The main character in a movie you and your teen just watched uses drugs. This is a great opportunity to discuss the character’s addiction with your teen. Did your son/daughter think the main character’s drug use was cool or did they recognize that she had a problem? Celebrity – Your daughter’s favourite movie star goes to rehab. Ask your daughter why she thinks this movie star is such a cool person. Maybe she just likes the clothes that she wears, but this is a great opportunity to remind your daughter that a good role model is someone who doesn’t do drugs or has taken initiative to get help with a drug problem. Professional Athletes – Your daughter’s favourite athlete is in the news for taking drugs. Ask your daughter how she feels about it and point out how much it can hurt a person’s career and reputation. Classmates – A teen in your son’s class was caught with possession of marijuana at school. Find out what your son is thinking about this situation. Talk about the harmful effects of marijuana and the consequences.

LISTEN When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. Listen! All I asked was that you listen. Not to talk or do - just hear me. Advice is cheap. Ten cents will get you both Dear Abby and Bill Graham in the same newspaper. And I can do for myself. I’m not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless. When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and weakness. But, when you accept as a single fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get to the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we undersatnd what’s behind them. So, please listen and just hear me. And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn; and I’ll listen to you. by Author Unknown

Listen


Can’t I just ground them until they’re 19?!! Eye rolling and back talk is annoying and aggravating under any circumstance, but keep setting appropriate limits for them. Teens actually feel more secure when they have clear boundaries on issues like drugs and curfews, but don’t make them up on the fly. Hammer out rules well ahead of time (maybe before school starts each year) and remember to build in more and more freedom and responsibility as your child gets older (Embrett, 2010). Parents spend the first 12 years of a child’s life steering them toward their future, and now we ask you to give them the wheel. You still have a role in their lives – sharing your wisdom and then backing off. Shift your role as a parent from know-it-all to adviser (Cornell, 2010). Think about mistakes you made as a teenager, it may help to talk about your own experiences explaining what happened and what you learned (ie; “I thought I had to try whatever someone gave me at a party to fit in and I really just didn’t want people to make fun of me, but it got me in a lot of trouble and I will support however I can so you don’ t have to go through the same thing” or “I hung out with people that did lots of stuff, but never tried it myself because I really wanted to focus on baseball and doing that stuff would limit what I could do in that”). If you really fear your teen is making a dangerous choice, you need to take a stand and seek out professional help (see list of websites at the end of the article for resources and places where you can ask experts for assistance during this time); but remember to let them make decision and mistakes, just as they did when they were toddlers exploring around and getting bumps and bruises. You want to teach your kids grown-up concepts, but in the end, they need to figure things out for themselves too. The charts below are results from the PIER Project (2010) that demonstrates the equal desire for both youth and adults to build better relationships before talking about a subject like substance use. Both youth and adults stated that relationship building is their top priority before having a conversation with someone about drugs.

What would make adults feel more comfortable talking to youth about drugs? Parent blogs/message boards Presentations/Education Relationship building with youth Other

What would make youth more comfortable talking to adults about drugs? Adult approaching the topic of drugs in a calm, non-threatening manner Adults building a good relationship with youth before expecting to talk Adults engaging youth in a one on one conversation talking about drugs Other

Can’t I just ground them until they’re 19?!!


What about the rest of us?!!

(grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, community members, service providers)

What’s our role in preventing youth from doing drugs?!! The very best prevention or intervention is to have open communication. We told this to the parents, now we saying this to you, as a guide, a trusted friend in their life, or possibly it’s just that you’re a role model outside of the parental realm. Whatever you are to this youth you play a role in how they are influenced and choices that they’ll make down the road as well. You are an adult ally. The previous information is just as important for you to know as the parent, the only difference will be you might be the one they feel closer to and more comfortable talking to because of emotional connectedness and fear of repercussions from their parents. Not to say you’re not emotionally connected, just the opposite, you are connected to them in a very useful way. You hold just enough of a bonding relationship for that youth to feel comfortable talking to you. If you do not hold this bond the potential is there, here’s how: As an adult ally you can support, prepare and adequately follow up with youth when they share their personal stories with others to ensure that they can build upon their personal experiences. If that is not possible, allies may need to help youth avoid such opportunities to keep them from being exploited or making poor choices (Centre for Excellence in Children’s WellBeing). For extended family members like Grandparents, Aunts/Uncles and older cousins you have a conversational ‘leg up’ from most other people in a youth’s life as you share memories and similarities of your family dynamics. You have the ‘inside scoop’ on what their parents were like as youth themselves, or are like now. To help take the stress of a conversation around a subject like substances you can share experiences you’ve had with their parents, or yourself. This not only opens the door for some open, honest learning and sharing, but will take the pressure off of being perfect for that youth if they know that shortcomings exist for everyone. To learn about conversation starters and the importance of adult allies in a youth’s life visit www.search-institute.org.

How you can make a difference?! 1 Know the facts – Educate yourself about substance use and

5 Focus on the positive – People with mental health and

mental health problems; what can bring them on; who is more likely to develop problems; and how to prevent or reduce the severity of problems.

substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are.

2 Be aware of your attitudes and behavior – We’ve all grown

6 Support people – Treat people who have substance use

up with prejudices and judgmental thinking, which are passed on by society and reinforced by family, friends and the media.

and mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you if were in the same situation.

3 Choose your words carefully – The way we speak can affect

7 Include everyone – In Canada, it is against the law for

the way other people think and speak. Use accurate and sensitive words when talking about people with mental health and substance use problems.

employers and people who provide services to discriminate against people with mental health and substance use problems. Denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights.

4 Educate others – Find opportunities to pass on facts and

positive attitudes about people with substance use and mental health problems.

(CAMH)

What about the rest of us?!!


Five Golden Rules of Discipline (for kids of any age!)

1

STAND FIRM • Stick to the rules and consequences you set up. We all hate conflict but if you don’t stick to the rules, your kids aren’t likely to either.

2

PICK YOUR BATTLES • Your reaction can turn down the heat. Make sure that small things get small attention and big things get big attention.

3

PRAISE, DON’T PUNISH • ‘Good feeling’ discipline means that your tone of voice, behaviour, and the words you’re using should all feel good to your child 80% of the time.

4

SET CLEAR RULES AND EXPECTATIONS • Age-appropriate rules can make family life a whole lot easier. When everyone’s on the same page there’s little room for argument.

5

PROVIDE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE • That simple. Youth need to know you love them, everyday, even when they’ve done something bad. Source: Today’s Parent Magazine April 2010

More Information

Addiction Services of Thames Valley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.adstv.on.ca Alcohol and Drug Treatment Info . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.connexontario.ca BC Council for Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.bccf.bc.ca Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.ccsa.ca Centre for Addiction and Mental Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.camh.net Council on Drug Abuse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.drugabuse.ca Parent Action on Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.parentactionondrugs.org Parent Further. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.parentfurther.com Smart Choices All Year Round . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.ThinkAboutIt.com

Additonal Websites/Information

Find Out the Truth About Drugs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.drugfreeworld.org Drugs and Addictions Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.dafacts.com National Anti-Drug Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.not4me.ca Mental Health Support. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.kidsmentalhealth.ca Parent Support for Children’s Mental Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.mentalhealth4kids.ca Children and Youth Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.kidshelpphone.ca Parenting Information from MLHU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.greatparenting.ca Youth Mental Health Support. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.mindyourmind.ca AnxietyBC™ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.anxietybc.com Mothers Against Drunk Drivers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . www.madd.ca

Five Golden Rules of Discipline • More Information


References Cornell, Camilla. 2010. “The Freedom Fighters.” Today’s Parent, March 2010, pp.60-72. CAMH resource “The Stigma of Addiction” Embrett, Cheryl. 2010. “Discipline Now: Strategies age by age.” Today’s Parent, April 2010, pp.52-60. Khanna, Nishad, McCart, Stoney. 2007. “Adult Allies in Action.” Centre for Excellence in Children’s Well-Being. Retrieved January 2011 (www.youthactivism.com/Adults_Only.php). PIER Project. 2011. Addiction Services of Thames Valley. (www.adstv.on.ca) Health Canada. 2008. “Talking with your teen about drugs.” Health Canada, Ottawa. The anti-drug.com. Underwood, Nora. 2010. “Grace under pressure.” Today’s Parent, May 2010, pp.127-133.

Adapted with permission from ADSTV.

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