Did you know it’s Red Ribbon Week, from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31? Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership, is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Formally designated in 1988, the event serves as an annual opportunity for communities and individuals to affirm their commitment to healthy and drug-free lives.
Here in Middletown, our Task Force and community volunteers are particularly aware of the importance of preventing underage drinking, which is one of the “prevention priorities” that Red Ribbon Week emphasizes. The fact that alcohol is the drug of choice for America’s youth, and that young people frequently combine alcohol and other drugs are just two reasons why preventing underage drinking is so important.
Middletown’s teen drinking rates are higher than the state average: 41% of Middletown’s high school students reported use of alcohol in the past 30 days (according to the Middletown Student Health and Wellness Survey 2011-2012) versus 34% of high school students statewide. In addition, access to alcohol is a huge issue: 37% of Middletown middle school students and 66 percent of high school students indicated that it would be “sort of” or “very” easy to get alcohol.
What can you do to help prevent underage drinking? Turns out, talking to your teens is one of the most powerful things a parent can do. Our Task Force was recently involved in the “Power of Parents” training sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the focus was on the relationship between parents and kids.
All the research says that teens being connected to their parents and being bonded to their families are strong protective factors – and the key is for parents to have a dialogue with their kids. Although you may feel like the last thing your teen wants to do is listen, the things you say really do have an impact.
The Power of Parents training suggests seven tips for connecting with your teen:
- Communicate before a problem starts—before there is blaming, anger, or punishments
- Discuss rules and consequences—explain how you expect your child to act and why, and what the consequences of broken rules will be
- Show you care—tell them you love them
- Pay attention—take time to listen to them, and always know where they are
- Share family activities—have dinner together at least three times per week
- Give and get respect—it’s a two way street
- Enforce consequences consistently
Parents, talk to your teens. Offer straightforward, no-nonsense information: Underage drinking is illegal. Drinking can make you sick or pass out. Drinking can lead to sexual assault, or car accidents, or a future as an alcoholic. Your teens need to hear unwavering guidance from you—during Red Ribbon Week, and all through the year.
—Lori Verderosa, Coordinator
Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force