Prevention for Families

Keep Your Teen Drug-Free :: April '21 Issue

Preventing Teen Alcohol Use: What You’re Drinking vs. What You’re Thinking

April is alcohol awareness month, and a great time to talk about alcohol with your child!

As kids are back in school and spending more time with their peers, they may encounter situations where alcohol is present. We know most teens choose not to use alcohol regularly, but when they are in a social situation, after a challenging year without much social interaction, they may be tempted to use.

Often times teens use alcohol to fit in at social events because they get bombarded with the idea that alcohol makes you more social, easygoing, or less awkward. We’ve all seen this idea depicted in TV shows, movies, songs, or other media.

What your teen may not have heard is that alcohol doesn’t actually affect your social behaviors, if we’re just talking about the chemical structure.

The behaviors we see depicted in media (or in our own lives) are a result of our expectations of what will happen if we drink alcohol. In others words, it is a social construct that we are more social, likable, or less awkward when we drink alcohol. This information comes to us from a study done at the University of Washington– check out the short video below to learn more.

Certainly we are affected by alcohol– the clumsiness, slower reflexes, and tiredness are a result of alcohol in our brain – but if your child thinks alcohol will make them more likable at a party, they are misinformed.

This is important because if your child’s goal is to feel more comfortable in social situations, they should know they have better options than alcohol use.

Here are some tips to share with your teen for handling social situations:

  • Take a buddy to an event so you’re not alone
  • Hold a cup/drink with something in it other than alcohol (even if others are drinking alcohol)
  • Do a mindfulness meditation before a date/ party to calm your nerves
  • Think about some things you can talk about before you go
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Media and Your Child

Our children’s connection to media is everywhere, coming from more sources and screens than we probably remember when we were kids.: TV, movies, video games, handheld games, computers, cell phones, I-pads, watches, etc.

There are many wonderful uses for media that provide conveniences and education for us and our families. There are also dangers in media use that as parents and educators, we are tasked to protect our children from. With all the amazing advances in technology, we cannot forget to make advances in how we protect our children from media that is not age appropriate.

It’s important to remember that childrens’ brains are not fully developed, especially the part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) responsible for critical thinking, judgement, problem solving, and impulse control. When a child or adolescent views media showing violence, sexual content, or harmful stereotypes, their own ideas, feelings, and behaviors are impacted. Without some guidance from a trusted adult, repeated exposure to these kinds of media may lead to an increase in aggression and a decrease in empathy.

Quick Tips for Setting Media Guidelines:

  • Limit the amount of screen time to 1 – 2 hours per day (or less if you notice it is negatively impacting your child).
  • Model screen-free times/activities (like dinner time, for example).
  • Keep childrens’ bedrooms free of screen media (no TV, game systems, laptops, I-pads, cell phones etc.).
  • Preview media that your child is interested in before you allow them to view/play it.
  • Co-view media (if appropriate) with your child and discuss the content – this will help them develop critical thinking skills.
  • Do your research about social media sites (like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and closely monitor their usage. Remember, these sites are typically for ages 13 or older.
  • Stick to rating recommendations. They exist for a reason.
  • Use your parental judgement. Your children are counting on you to set their limits.

Crucial Conversations Challenge: Asking the Suicide Question

After a tough year, many children and teens may be struggling with mental un-wellness. You may be the person your child or your child’s friends turn to for help, so it’s important to be prepared if they do confide in you.

One of the hardest things to do is ask if someone is thinking about suicide, but it can be the most important thing to ask. The best way to ask is by directly saying “are you thinking about killing yourself?” We may be tempted to opt for words that aren’t quite as blunt, like “hurting yourself,” but hurting yourself and killing yourself can be two very different things, so it is important to be extremely clear.

Practice asking that question in the mirror or with another adult so that you know how it feels when the times comes to ask your child or another young person. Check the parent resource section for more support and information.

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SMS Prevention Club 2021 Seeking New Members

Shuksan Middle School has a student-led prevention club that aims to promote mental/physical wellness, healthy choices, and connection. When teens are well and feel connected to their school community, they make better decisions around substance use. Our Prevention Club is looking for new members and is open to all students at SMS. If your student is interested in getting involved, have them contact Mr. Giles through email. They will get an invitation to join the weekly Zoom meeting and participate in prevention discussions and projects. Students will also have the opportunity to attend prevention conferences with clubs across WA state. Previous projects have included decorating bulletin boards around the school, organizing and participating in the Shuksan Family Community Night, and clean-up projects to keep our school clean and safe
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Shuksan Middle School SAP Program

Worried that your teen may be struggling with substance-related issues? The Student Assistance Professional (SAP) Program exists to serve students who may be using substances themselves, are at a higher risk for using substances, or are struggling with family members who use substances. Students can work one-on-one with the Student Assistance Professional or participate in a group with other students with similar experiences. Services are tailored to individual student needs and often include learning coping skills, teaching refusal skills, and learning about the risks of substance use. All referrals and conversations are confidential, and students will not get in trouble for disclosing information to the Student Assistance Professional. (Limitations to confidentiality are suicide plans, reports of abuse, or information about the injury of another person). Referrals can be made by phone or email to Mr. Giles.

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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) Shuksan Middle School

Northwest ESD 189

360-676-4857 or 360-299-4721

Parent Resources

Kelly Giles

Student Assistance Professional (SAP)

Shuksan Middle School

Northwest ESD 189