Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention – 1998

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Chapter 7: Getting Involved And Staying Involved

Parent-school partnerships

Parents do not need to feel they are alone in helping their children stay drug- free. For the first time ever, there are preventative intervention programs that have been proven to be effective and are available to schools, families and communities.

Children have the best prospects for leading healthy, drug-free lives when schools support parents in their anti-drug message. There should be nothing confusing or contradictory in what children learn about drugs from the adults in their lives, and school policies need to reflect the same attitude toward alcohol and drugs that you express at home: Drug use is not acceptable. Drugs diminish a child's ability to concentrate and follow through on academic responsibilities, they cause loss of motivation and absenteeism, and students who use them can be disruptive and drain teachers' time and energy. The best way to ensure that the anti-drug policies at your child's school are strong is to be involved. You can:

Help from the community

Drug-free sons and daughters not only strengthen their families but their communities, too. As a result, many towns have found ways to help local young people stay healthy. Some offer teens alternatives to familiar rituals, such as alcohol- and drug-free proms, and special dry events such as First Night festivities on New Year's Eve. Others support student-run clubs where teens can hang out, listen to music, and play sports in the evening.

Reclaiming our neighborhoods block by block

Contrary to a common misperception, drug-use rates for urban African-American children have typically been lower than rates for the population as a whole. But children in less affluent urban areas are more often exposed to drugs and the street-level drug culture. When dealers make themselves at home in a neighborhood, they often bring with them a number of other blights: crime, truancy, a higher drop-out rate, increased drug use, the physical deterioration of buildings and common areas, and despair. Residents, however, often don't realize the tools at their command to discourage drug dealing. Dealers tend to avoid neighborhoods in which the community stands united against them. Here's how we can demonstrate our commitment to reclaiming our streets:

Parents supporting each other

Parents have no stronger allies in their fight against drug abuse than each other. Many parents find it useful to meet regularly in support of each other. It's helpful to be able to turn to other parents at the same stage of child-rearing with questions like "My daughter wants to go to a party where the chaperone will be a 20-year-old cousin — are you allowing your son to go?" If you haven't met many parents in your area with whom you can share anti-drug plans, you might want to contact a parent or community group with resources for parents. These organizations also provide interested families with information about drug prevention and referrals for treatment.

No matter how good school and community anti-drug efforts are, a parent's prevention campaign is still the most powerful. Gail Amato Baker, former president of Bowling Green Parents for Drug-Free Youth, who is now a community service representative for the Passage Group in Knoxville, Tennessee, tells why: "People often ask me why I think parents are the answer, and I think it's because we have the most to lose. Schools can help, churches can help, law enforcement can help, but no one can replace the family. Being involved with drug and alcohol prevention lets our children know that we care. It strengthens the family and helps us to be the kind of parents our children need us to be."

What you can do

Your child's transition from elementary school to middle school or junior high calls for special vigilance. Children are much more vulnerable to drugs and other risky behavior when they move from sixth to seventh grade than when they were younger.

Continue the dialogue on drugs that you began when your child was younger, and stay involved in your child's daily life by encouraging interests and monitoring activities. Use the specific actions below to significantly reduce the chance of your child becoming involved with drugs. Some of these actions, like being sure your child is supervised in the hours after school, may seem like common sense. And some may meet with resistance from preteens who are naturally striving to achieve independence from their parents. But all the measures listed below are critically important in making sure that your child's life is structured in such a way that drugs have no place in it.

[What To Do If You Think Your Child Might Be Using Drugs] [Table of Contents] [Where To Get Information And Help]