Prevention for Families

Keep Your Teen Drug-Free :: January '23 Issue

Setting Goals Around Substance Use

It’s the time of year when we are setting our intentions and making goals for ourselves. If your teen does use, and wants to make a change, it’s important to set realistic and manageable goals so they don’t become discouraged. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and have a time limit or date to complete. Quitting or reducing substance use is a tricky business, so encourage your teen to share their goals with you so you can help keep them accountable. They need support to make a lasting change. Giving encouragement when they slip up or need to restart is a valuable effort. When they're not in it alone, they have a better chance of achieving their goal.

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Keeping Teens Safe If They DO Use

Teens make better decisions around substance use when they know their parent has their back if they get into an unsafe situation. Let your teen know your expectations, but make sure they also know you will help them if they do slip up. When teens don’t know how their parents will react, they make poor decisions like getting into a car under the influence. Let them know you won’t be happy, but that you would rather them be safe. One strategy is to have a pre-planned code word, so that if they are in a social situation but want to get out, they can get your help and save face with peers. Take a moment to have a conversation with your teen and let them know your expectations and consequences they can expect, but also that you have their back. When they’re not worried about unknown consequences and know what to expect, they tend to make better choices.

What Works in Prevention

It’s important to know what strategies are effective in preventing substance use, as our time and resources are often scarce. Here are a few tried and true principles to implement in your family:

- Build communication skills

- Teach refusal skills

- Reinforce anti-drug attitudes

- Increase study skills and academic support

- Increase social and emotional skills

- Promote healthy alternatives to drug use

- Enhance bonding with positive adults

What Doesn’t Work in Prevention

Perhaps even more importantly, knowing what doesn’t work is necessary so that we don’t do more harm than good. Sometimes, what we think is effective, actually makes the problem worse. Here are some of the don’ts in prevention:

- Scare tactics (scary images, mock car crashes, etc)

- One-time events

- Personal testimony from people in recovery

- Sensationalizing information about substances (reporting how many people DO use)

- Appealing to young people’s morals

- Giving detailed information about substance use (how to use it, potential benefits of use, street names, etc)

- Role play, where youth are asked to play the part of drug dealers or users

Prevention Club

If your SMS child is interested in joining a club, the Prevention Club will be having meetings biweekly after school!

This club works together to create group projects aimed at making the school a healthier, happier and safer place. We focus on subjects like preventing substance use, bullying, suicide, increasing well-being, coping with stress and whatever other subjects the students want to address.

In the past, students have attended the Prevention Summit in Yakima, created mindfulness videos for the school, created motivating posters and much more!

If your child is interested in joining our club and helping their school community be well, they can find me in my office near the front door or email me at

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FIESTA Family Group

There is a new family group at Shuksan called, “FiestaFamilies at Shuksan Together.” We are starting with small initiatives to promote a sense of belonging for all families at Shuksan.

We see a need for families to connect, and we are trying to figure out how to do that in a way that meets Shuksan’s needs. This is not your typical PTA Club that may focus on fundraising.

Values and Hopes

  • Create low-barrier, inclusive ways for families to meet one another and for students to have unstructured time to connect
  • Find ways for families to team up with SMS
  • Create even more belonging so even more students will say, “I love going to school!”
  • Connect families with the information they want and need and with school resources and staff

Connect with Us

If you would like to be on our mailing list and join our efforts, please email CJ Fisher at (SMS Librarian and SMS Parent)

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What would you like to see in the next issue?

Contact Kelly Giles with any suggestions, comments, or questions.

Kelly Giles

Student Assistance Professional (SAP, SUDP) Shuksan Middle School

Northwest ESD 189

360-676--6454 ext 4857

Kelly Giles

Student Assistance Professional (SAP, SUDP)

Shuksan Middle School

Northwest ESD 189