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Talking to Parents about Talking to Kids about Drugs

The Acorn published an article about the Or Ami Center for Jewish Parenting’s lecture series on Talking to Parents about Talking to Kids about Drugs. The complete original article, written by congregant Julie Buckley, appears below:

Talking to Parents about Talking to Kids about Drugs
By Agoura Hills Resident Julie Buckley

Congregation Or Ami’s Center for Jewish Parenting knows that children do not come with an instruction manual. That is why we offer a series of lectures that cover a wide range of parenting issues, from raising grateful children in an indulgent society, parenting our parents, to creating ethical wills.

This month Or Ami brought in representatives from Beit T’shuvah and Malibu’s Visions Treatment Facility to help parents understand some of the reasons kids turn to drugs, and to explore ways to prevent or help our children if they do. The program, called “Partners in Prevention,” brought in former addicts who spoke about how they ended up becoming addicted to drugs. Over 180 adults from all over the Conejo and San Fernando Valleys attended the three sessions.

Recovering addicts spoke about the many challenges that kids face today. There are demands to perform academically, athletically, creatively, in the community– all while navigating what might be awkward adolescent years, wanting very much to be liked and to fit in. The adults in attendance, by a show of hands, had themselves experienced feeling different and feeling they were alone in that experience. Our youth is susceptible to experimentation, whether at parochial or secular, private or public school. The drugs available are not only chemically stronger than in years past, the range of what is available has expanded. Prescription drugs are being sold on campuses, sometimes referred to as study aids. The combination of pressure and awkwardness at a time when kids may not have strategies for coping with the feelings which may arise makes them vulnerable to curiosity about drugs. In the absence of alternative methods for managing these age-appropriate stresses, children are at risk of substance abuse.

Providing parents with insights into young people’s social needs and pressures, as well as identifying specifically what drugs are available in our schools is critical to being able to see the signs of trouble. “Partners in Prevention” organizes youth peer groups as well as parent support and education.

Or Ami President Susan Gould, thought she knew why kids turn to drugs: peer pressure, loneliness, curiosity. She was surprised to learn that many kids use drugs to escape the pressure to succeed. “We all want the reassurance that we can keep our kids “too busy” to experiment with drugs. The reality is that no matter how filled their days are, they will have numerous opportunities to experiment.”

Keeping lines of communication open could not be overstated by either treatment group. Rabbi Paul Kipnes, trained in addiction counseling and spiritual care from HazeldenTreatment Center, reiterated that knowing your children’s friends is essential. Monitoring internet, text, and call activity may be warranted. Being certain that there is adult supervision at parties and gatherings is crucial. Noticing changes in kids’ behavior, whether it is grades, new friends, or energy levels is another possible barometer. More information about talking to kids about drugs can be found on the rabbi’s blog: http://rabbipaul.blogspot.com. Ultimately, recognizing that as parents, we can not know all, seek help from experts if there is any doubt that your child is in trouble.

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