Parents’ advice on drugs, alcohol needed

Published 11:59 pm Monday, October 12, 2009

Last week, ABC agents arrested a Florala High School student for possession of an alcoholic beverage on school property, a felony offense.

The week before that, an Opp High School student was charged with three drug offenses after he tried to sell prescription pills at school.

Those events should be reminders to parents of the importance of talking to their kids about the risks involved with drugs and alcohol, Covington County Children’s Policy Council director Susan Short said.

“Believe it or not, kids do listen to their parents,” she said. “Surveys show that teens say they primarily learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents.”

And parents shouldn’t think their students are safe from the dangers because they live in a small town.

“Covington County is a great place to live, but we have anything that is available in large cities across the United States right here,” she said.

While there is no “silver bullet” to ensure that teens don’t use alcohol and drugs, there are some things parents can do to lessen the possibility, she said.

“Sometimes really good kids make bad decisions and get in trouble,” she said. “But there are some things that parents can do.”

She said that research shows that anti-drug messages are most effective if they are heard at home, and fourth grade is the right time to begin talking to students.

“Studies show that many children take their first drink of alcohol when they are 11,” Short said.

While that statistic may sound shocking, it shouldn’t be. Statistics also show that 85 percent of the population of adults regularly drink alcohol, which makes the substance easily available to youngsters.

“If you are one of those who drink and you want to be sure your children aren’t drinking, lock it up,” she said.

Local law enforcement officials regularly make arrests for “house parties,” at which adults supply alcohol for teens.

“If you are a law-abiding citizen, you should remember that it is not legal to give alcohol to anyone under 21,” Short said. “And teens have never been responsible drinkers.”

A new danger, she said, is a phenomenon called “pharm” parties. Kids bring prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets and put the pills in a bowl.

“Then they pick a pill,” she said.

Teens take risks, she said, because their critical thinking skills aren’t fully developed.

“Parents have always known that,” Short said. “Science is just now figuring it out.”

Research also shows that children whose parents spend time with them are less likely to become involved in alcohol and drugs.

“Some children are sitting on a box of dynamite and parents are doing all they can to keep the powder dry,” Short said.

“I am a firm believer in church activities — even secular activities — designed to keep kids busy,” she said. “The research shows that it is less likely kids will use alcohol and drugs if they are attending church activities.

“Parental involvement is so very important,” she said. “Pick your fights, but be sure your kids know how you feel about alcohol and drugs.”

Kids care what their parents do and think, she said.

“And remember, when you’re a parent, they are always watching you,” Short said.