Monday, September 18, 2006

The middle years and substance abuse

When I look at my eighth grader sleeping like an angel, its hard to imagine that she's confronted with issues like drugs and alcohol. She looks too young, too composed, too "pulled together." But according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA), a US-based think tank at Columbia University, my "little girl" is about to enter the most challenging, risky age for teens.

In "At 14 Candles, Kids are Facing a Darker Path," Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer reports that:
Compared with 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds are four times likelier to be offered prescription drugs, three times likelier to be offered Ecstasy, three times likelier to be offered marijuana, and two times likelier to be offered cocaine, according to the group.
One problem, according to NCASA: parents who, like me, can't imagine their kids would do drugs. Our naivete allows kids space to dabble in drugs and alcohol right under our own noses. The evidence: a survey conducted by the NCASA, which yielded some shocking results:
  • Virtually all parents surveyed (98 percent) say they are present during parties they allow their teens to have at home. But a third of teen partygoers report that parents are rarely or never present at the parties they attend.
  • Virtually all parents (99 percent) say they would not serve alcohol at their teen's party, but 28 percent of teen partygoers have been at parties where parents were present and teens were drinking alcohol.
So what to do? Reimer offers these suggestions:
The kids will be mortified, but the parents have to be the parents and supervise any gathering at their homes, whether it is an official party or not.

That means greeting everybody at the door and asking for introductions; eyeballing the guests and acting when you sense trouble. Don't be afraid to send someone packing.

It means passing through the room where the kids have gathered every few minutes. Smile cheerfully and offer something to eat, certainly. But never retreat to your bedroom.
I can already envision the eyerolling and moaning that my daughter will produce when I "smile cheerfully" while "passing through the room" every few minutes at her get-togethers. But I'll sweetly remind her that it could be worse: I could perform a rendition of the Chicken Dance for her friends' enjoyment....


At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the link to the Chicken Dance and I can envision you doing it!!! I love reading your's educational and funny too.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Ha ha ha! The Chicken Dance already made an appearance at JIS: last year, at Middle School's "Pi" Day. (To make it even more horrifying, I was wearing a giant, pink, pie-shaped hat.) That's why its threat is so powerful-- my daughter knows I'll made good on it!

Thanks so much for your support and kind words!


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