We are eager for all that Fall brings to the Northwest – the excitement of a new school year, the beautiful landscape as the leaves begin to change, and the promise of a few raindrops to remind us that we do in fact live in the Pacific Northwest!
Change has certainly been all around us, even as we wind down from the long days of summer. As of July 1st, recreational marijuana has become legal in Oregon. With this change, there are likely many questions about what this means for you, but perhaps more importantly, what this means for the children in our lives.
Choices we make as adults have a very different impact on our health and well-being compared to that of our children whose brains are still rapidly developing—in fact, until around age 25.
We hope that this season of change can prompt us to consider the needs of our growing children and how we can support and help them grow to be healthy young adults.
Did you know that you have the power to raise your children to be substance free?
It’s important to educate yourself and know where you stand on marijuana and alcohol use. And as important, do your children know where you stand?
Research shows that kids who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use. If you’re unsure on the subject, more than likely your children are too, which can open the door to adolescent experimentation.
As a parent or other caring adult, when we look to prevent or change particular behaviors in children, we sometimes do so by attempting to instill fear or scare tactics. When it comes to anti-substance use scare tactics, it may sound something like this:
- See that mock crash, if you drink and drive, you will crash and you will die
- Were you listening to the story that family told about their child’s drug overdose? If you take those pills, you will end up the same way as that child
- Look at those awful pictures of meth users. That is what happens when people use meth.
Prevention experts discourage the use of scare tactics and here’s why:
- Youth are hardwired to defend against negative messaging: When the outcome doesn’t always match the message being delivered to them, they may discount it. “My friend took those same pills to get high many times and he’s just fine.”
- Young people filter information differently than adults: Most adults filter information using logic and rational thinking. Most teens, on the other hand, are naturally driven to engage in riskier, more impulsive behavior. Blame it partially on the adolescent brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for controlling impulses, exercising judgment and decision-making (which we just learned from above isn’t fully developed!).
- High-risk youth can be more attracted to risky behavior: Some youth are wired more strongly for sensation-seeking and are more impulsive risk-takers. Present such a youth with the chance to rebel by getting drunk or high and he/she may see it as thrill-seeking opportunity. The better approach here is to deliver a positive message about non-use, so as not to give a child something to rebel against.
- Strong warnings can send unintended messages: Overwhelming negative attention focused on anti-use may unintentionally send the message to children that it is a widespread problem and everyone must be doing it. Such misinterpretation leads to youth believing alcohol and drug use is the norm, that their peers are using, and that peers would be accepting of their choice to use.
Ok, that’s helpful, but now what can I do?
When it comes to preventing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, focus efforts on teaching children what TO do, instead of what NOT to do, and reminding them regularly that the majority of youth do not use.
Research shows that parents and other caring adults can have the greatest impact on young lives by guiding them to make positive decisions, showing them healthy ways to cope, teaching them important resistance skills, and then giving them the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.
Our youth hold a great deal of promise for our future. It’s up to us as parents and mentors to help guide them to put their best step forward!
You can read our Fall Newsletter for more resources.