Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kids Smoking and Drinking?

According to a recent report from AScribe Newswire Center for the Advancement of Health, "Teen smoking and drinking do not occur in a vacuum -- both parents and peers may promote or discourage substance abuse among teens, according to a study of more than 4,500 students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades".

"This is one of the first studies to report that both peer and parent influences are independently associated with smoking and drinking," said lead author Bruce Simons-Morton, Ed.D., M.P.H., of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland.

The teen study participants took a substance abuse survey that included questions on how many of their friends smoke and drink and how often friends had encouraged them to smoke or drink over the past year. The teens were also asked how aware their parents were of their daily activities, about their parents' expectations concerning smoking and drinking and about their parents' level of regard for them.

Girls and boys who associated with friends who smoke and drank were more likely to do so themselves, the researchers found. "Our findings underscore the powerful influence affiliation with substance-using peers can have on smoking and drinking," said Simons-Morton.

In general, girls were more likely to drink than boys and were more susceptible to peer pressure from friends encouraging them to drink, according to the study. "This is consistent with other research suggesting that girls may be more susceptible than boys to peer influences to smoke or drink," noted Simons-Morton.

Parents also appeared to influence teen smoking and drinking, the researchers found. "Teens who perceived that their parents like them, respect them, take them seriously, listen to them and give reasons for rules and decisions that involve them were less likely to smoke and drink," said Simons-Morton.

"Teens with parents who do not establish clear behavioral expectations, do not keep themselves informed about their teen's life and do not demonstrate their regard for their teen are more likely to experiment with substance use," the researcher added.

Do you like and respect your kids? Of course you do! But, do your kids believe that you like and respect them? Do you take your kids seriously? Of course you do! But, it has been my experience that only when parents take the time to explain their thoughts to their kids (as opposed to just ordering them around and sternly lecturing them) do the kids actually feel as though they are liked, loved, and respected by their parents.

Also, do you have clear behavioral expectations for your kids? Do they know what they are? After working with thousands of middle school kids over the years, it has become clear that kids seek and desire clear rules and expectations from their parents.

Yes, they will rebel and try to circumvent the rules, but only as an attempt to test your love for them! Be consistent, be clear, and always check on your kids, to help to ensure that they are staying away from all forms of drugs.

Hang in there! Your kids need you!!

Paul W. Reeves

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Finally, Christmas is here!! It’s time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and, in keeping with the American tradition, give tons of presents to your kids!

Have you ever considered the gift that your child wants the most? A bike? No. A guitar or drum set? No. A computer or software? No. How about an iPod? No.

Although I have never met a child who has refused to accept the aforementioned gifts, the gift that your child truly wants is ................... YOU!! Yes, despite their daily rants about the restrictions that you place upon them, the multitude of “unfair” accusations that are lobbed your way, and the total disdain with which they look at you sometimes, the most important gift to any child is YOU and your TIME!

A few years ago, a 6th grade student (11 years old) named Robert told me about the harrowing experience that he had encountered with his dad during the previous weekend. His dad was hanging Christmas lights from their gutters on their 2-story home. It was somewhat windy and his dad even mentioned that he was a little concerned climbing up and down the ladder. At one point, he told his son to hold the bottom of the ladder just in case the wind decided to wreak some havoc.

Quite quickly, Robert became worried and he began to visualize the worst - how would his life change if his dad bought the farm while trying to beautify their home for the season. Within moments, Robert implored his dad to forget the lights for the season or try on another day. His dad told him that he would be too busy on all of the future weekends before Christmas. So, it was now or never. Robert voted for never.

Despite the bikes, guitars, drums sets, iPods, etc., that Robert’s mom and dad had provided in the past or might provide in the future, at that very moment he learned that his most important gift was his parents. He realized that, most important of all, he liked having his mom and dad home early from work; he liked their help with homework; he liked knowing that his dad would battle the “bad guys” if they broke in during the night; and he realized that his mom and dad took care of all of his needs because they loved him.

Without his parents and the time that they spent with him, Robert, on that windy Sunday afternoon, suddenly realized that he would have nobody to take care of him. Needless to say, according to Robert, his gift "needs" changed on that day.

When I asked Robert about that incident a few years later, he reiterated that the windy Sunday had changed him forever, from being a greedy kid who wanted tons of presents to a kid who smiled each night before he went to sleep, complete with the knowledge that he had parents who were in the same house and that they loved him!

So, yes, despite their constant blathering about their parents and their accompanying foibles and other deficiencies, kids are happiest and most secure when they have parents who love them, spend time with them, provide for their needs, have fun with them, and provide the emotional security blanket that they so richly need.

Merry Christmas - and give your child the most needed and most precious Christmas gift of all ...... YOU!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sample Conversation

With regard to talking to your children about the evils of adolescence, one of the conversations that I have replayed over and over with my own children (with variations, of course!) is printed below. My goals are simple:

a. Bring up the topic and openly discuss it, so that they know that I am aware of drug use with adolescents.

b. Let them know that I am going to be checking with them on a regular basis.

c. Give legitimacy to their thoughts and likes/dislikes, so that I don't come off as a know-it-all, although I do want them to have the confidence that I am at least a "little" smarter than they are - they won't acknowledge this, but it gives them great comfort to know that their parents are fully in the game!

d. Check for body language and the tone of the answers to ensure that the actual answers match!

Dad: Hey, did you see that music awards show last night?

Daughter: Yeah, I did. It was great. All of my favorite bands were on!

Dad: I suppose that I’ll never understand some of today’s music, but, then again, my parents said the same thing about the Beatles. I’ve always believed that good music eventually becomes etched in time and it holds its place in music history. I think that’s why the music of Bach and Beethoven, as well as the Beatles and Elvis Presley, is still popular today. It represented quality in their specific areas of expertise.

Daughter: Yeah, but, N’SYNC is really cool!

Dad: Well, you said that about the Spice Girls, too. And look where they are today? They don’t even exist!

Daughter: Well, O.K., I guess you were right about the Spice Girls, but I think that N’SYNC is in the Beethoven category.

Dad: Well, you might be right. We’ll see. Do you know what I noticed on the awards show that was somewhat disturbing?

Daughter: What? N’SYNC or the Backstreet Boys?

Dad: Well, both of them actually! But seriously, I noticed that many of the rock stars had that drugged out look about them. Do you know what I mean? They had sagging eyes, they looked at least 20 years older than they were, they were skinny as rails, drugs will do that to you, you know, and their eyes had somewhat of a glassy stare. Did you notice that?

Daughter: Yeah, a little. But the guys from N’SYNC seem to be clean cut.

Dad: Yes, they seem to be. But I just don’t understand why some of these rock stars, with their talent, fame, and money, feel the need to use drugs. After using that stuff for a while, your brain starts to become fried and your physical appearance starts to go downhill. Now, I’m sure that the drugs that they took felt great at the time, but look at them now! They’ve probably chopped years off of their lives with the drug use. I just don’t understand it, do you?

Daughter: No, I don’t. But I guess that they think it’s cool to use drugs with their friends.

Dad: Oh, I’m sure that you’re right. One of their friends probably had drugs at a party one night and offered it to them. Or maybe they smoked cigarettes when they were kids and the smoking led to the need for more powerful drugs. Do any of your friends smoke?

Daughter: No, dad, they don’t. That’s the 10 millionth time that you have asked that question since I was five years old.

Dad: I know, but I like to keep checking. And, as I’ve also told you 10 millions times, my dad died when he was 56 years old, due to smoking. I don’t want that to happen to you, because who will take care of me when I’m old? Anyway, about the rock stars, before they knew it, they were hooked and now look at them. They probably couldn’t stop if they wanted to. I know that I was offered drugs a few times in my life. Fortunately, I realized how stupid they were and I was able to say no. And because I said no, I was able to grow up with my brain intact and I was able to finish college and get a decent job.

Daughter: Yeah, dad that’s true. You’ll never be a rock star!

Dad: Well, I guess I’ll take that as a compliment! Has anybody ever offered you drugs?

Daughter: Now, dad, you know my friends are square!

Dad: Well, some of them act square around me, that’s for sure. In fact, a lot of kids act square around me. I call it the Eddie Haskell syndrome.

Daughter: The Eddie who, what?

Dad: The Eddie …. oh, never mind. It's just that kids often act differently around their friends than they do when they are around their friends’ parents. But, seriously, have you ever been offered drugs? I mean, any kind, illegal, legal like Tylenol, Motrin, or anything?

Daughter: No.

Dad: Well, when I was offered drugs, I definitely said no. Of course, my friends suddenly didn’t think that I was totally cool after that, but they did seem to gain respect for me. Will you let me know if you’re ever offered anything?

Daughter: Yes.

Throughout the conversation, I was able to convey the following elements:
1) The damage that drugs will do your brain and body.
2) My thoughts that drugs are damaging.
3) Questioned my daughter about her drug use.
4) Questioned her about her friends’ drug use.
5) Gave legitimacy to her music.
6) Listed a means by which drug use can start.
7) My own chances to try drugs (I said no!).

Most important of all ...... my daughter learned that I WILL keep checking on her for her safety and well-being!

Hang in there and check with your kids on a regular basis about the evils of Using Illicit Substances, including drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Although you won't get the feedback for several years, their confidence, self-esteem, and feeling of security will grow when their mom/dad continues to convey a sense of caring and involvement!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 13, 2008


When speaking to one of my own kids on various subjects, including Use of Illicit Substances (UIS), Smoking, Alcohol, Sex, and other serious adolescent issues, I try to avoid always lecturing, yelling, and backing my child into a verbal corner from which there is no retreat.

While those techniques certainly have their place and can be effective, I also use the caring, fatherly approach. My messages are generally packed with the following information (NOTE: Although the following tips are in regard to UIS, the same tips can be used when discussing any issue):

1) I tell my child the latest news that I might have heard, regarding UIS, such as a commercial or TV show that I saw (and which I suspect that she saw or about which she might have been told), an injury or death in the newspaper that resulted UIS, or maybe some news from her school, my school, or our community. The source of the information is not important, as long as it is relevant.

2) I ask my child if he/she had heard of the information that I had just presented. It’s not important whether or not they had heard of the presented information. The important part is the fact that you’re asking the question and that you’re curious for their answer. As you are asking for his/her knowledge and/or opinion on the matter, it lets him/her know that you care about this issue.

3) I then indicate how I would handle the similar situation if it had been presented to me. Of course, I am substantially older than a middle school student with many years of educational experience and three college degrees behind me, but it’s always good for my kids to hear how a responsible adult would handle the situation. Although they might disagree and even argue that my method was silly and would never work in today’s middle school setting (kids always say that their parents are out-of-step, don’t they?), it is still good for them to hear (over and over) how a responsible adult would handle the problem.

4) Then comes the big step! It’s time to ask your child how he/she would have handled the same problem or how they reacted to the problem that you presented. Hopefully, he/she will occasionally disagree with you. If your kids consistently agree with your line of reasoning, WATCH OUT! They are merely attempting to placate you, so that they can get on to their lives at the moment. Be sure to listen carefully, as their answers can often provide unintentional insight into their patterns of thinking, their true intentions, and their friends.

5) Be sure that the conversation, whether short or long, is filled with meaningful expressions, words, and thoughts, as well as letting them know that you care for their well-being as a person and as your child. While it might be easy to say, “Because I’m your dad (or mom) and I said so, now do it!”, it’s definitely not going to be effective in most situations, although that line of speech certainly does have its place. Rather, be sure that your child understands that you are serious about the subject, as well as their life.

So, yes, as difficult as it might be, continually raise the issues of the day with your children, including UIS, alcohol, smoking, sex, etc., so that they know that you’re aware of the issues, that you care about their reactions and abstinence, and so that they know that you care about them!

Remember, remaining silent will be much easier, but it will also signal to your kids that you don’t care! So, it’s time to TALK!TALK!TALK! to your kids ….. every day as much as possible!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 6, 2008


One of the most important steps that you can take with your child toward the prevention of Use of Illicit Substances (UIS), as well as a host of other topics, is to TALK!TALK!TALK! (TTT) to him/her monthly, weekly, and even daily, depending on the situation. It also helps if you use this precautionary method as soon as he/she is old enough to understand the message, but, if you’ve waited until now, it’s still not too late.

Before you utilize the TTT method, you must first gain an understanding of your child, so that you can determine which approach will work the best. For example if your child is able to listen to you without feeling threatened, the one-on-one approach might work best. If your child tunes you out during one-on-one discussions or immediately feels threatened or unloved due to your approach, then a non-direct eye contact method should be used.

For example, when facing my daughter one-on-one for a prolonged, caring discussion, she is able to understand my message, internalize it, and put it to use. It is also during these times that she is able to understand that I truly care about her and that I want the best for her.

However, my oldest son does not respond well to this approach, except in small increments. After a few moments of the one-on-one approach, he will make attempts to divest himself of the conversation, try to change the subject, or intentionally show that he is not truly internalizing my message.

He is not being disrespectful; he is simply unable to face a constant onslaught of these one-on-one direct messages. As his parent, I can force him to remain in place for my lecture, but due to his personality and his increasing desire to be removed from the conversation, my message does not have the impact that I desire. In fact, due to the fact that he is constantly trying to think of ways to get out of the lecture, he will not retain most of my message.

However, when I talk to him while driving the car, lying on his bedroom floor with him on his bed (both of us on our backs, staring at the ceiling, and avoiding eye contact), or chatting during the preparation of breakfast, my messages are well-received. In fact, these situations seem to encourage him to verbally respond in appropriate ways!

In order to effectively communicate your message of non-UIS and other issues to your child, first determine the proper method of communication with your child. Don’t become frustrated if the first several approaches and/or locales do not work effectively. Keep on trying new communication avenues until you find the right one for your individual child. And remember, each child is different, even when within the same family!

Stop by next week for some tips to use when engaging in detailed and successful TALK!TALK!TALK! session between you and child!!

Paul W. Reeves