Why it’s Important to Keep Dad Engaged

June 11th, 2015

When Mom is engaged, children benefit. But when Mom and Dad are both engaged, their Parent Power is amplified: fathers who are involved in their children’s daily lives and keep open lines of communication sharply reduce their children’s risk of substance abuse.

Too often, Mom is the only engaged parent. In our surveys, teens—both boys and girls—are more likely to report having an excellent relationship with their mother than their father. When we ask teens who have never smoked marijuana, “Why?” they tend to credit their decisions to their mothers. When we ask teens to whom they turn to discuss something very serious, they overwhelmingly answer “Mom.”

Children need their fathers to be there day after day, talking, listening, teaching, supporting, encouraging, and loving them. Mom needs Dad to be there too. If Dad is not engaged, Mom has no support in parenting: making decisions, setting rules, enforcing consequences, setting a good example. Children in two-parent families who report only poor or fair relationships with their fathers are at a higher risk for substance abuse then those in single-parent families who have an excellent relationship with their mother or father.

What if Dad can’t make it home in time for dinner? Perhaps he can help the kids with their homework later in the evening or spend time with the kids on the weekends. There are many activities that can help Dad engage with the kids such as: playing sports or games, taking walks, coaching a team, collecting things together, driving the kids to and from activities, or taking weekend or longer trips. Any of these activities gives Dad a chance to show his interest in his children’s hobbies, friends, schoolwork, and development.

It is essential that fathers, as well as mothers, lay a foundation of frequent and open communication with their children, that they talk and listen to them, set a good example with their own behavior, and that both fathers and mothers give the same consistent messages about not smoking, drinking, or using drugs.

Of course, not every family has two parents. In twenty-first century America, there are all kinds of families. What counts is the engagement of the family heads—and the consistency of their messages about alcohol and drug use. An engaged single parent is more effective than disengaged fathers and mothers in two-parent families.

How does Dad stay engaged in your family? Tell us in the comments section below.

Comments:

  1. Ramon Montoya writes:

    A good blog for the week before Fathers Day…. IF dad is the non – custodial parent he needs to cooperation of mom for shared parenting time.

    Staying engaged with our children is possible by making them the
    number 1 priority. Not letting work get in the way and planning activities with our children is important. There are many free activities to do with our children. We don’t need to spend money to make them happy. Go to the park, library, walk, cook a meal together.

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Should you Tell Your Kids about any Family History of Addiction?

May 28th, 2015

Many families have at least one member who has struggled with the disease of addiction. Perhaps you have a grandfather who drank heavily every night, an uncle who never grew out of smoking pot every day, a grandmother who died of lung cancer or emphysema because she didn’t quit smoking, or an elderly aunt who constantly pops tranquilizers, to the family’s great amusement or alarm. If you’re not sure about your own family history, ask some relatives, do a little investigating.

If there is anyone in your family who has struggled with addiction, your child may be at increased risk of substance abuse and addiction.

Genetics as well as social and family environmental factors can play a large role in the transmission of tobacco, alcohol, and drug addiction from one generation to the next. Parents, family, friends, and the community all influence whether a child decides to experiment with substances.

However, once a child has begun to smoke, drink, or use other drugs, genetic factors can influence, perhaps determine, whether that child’s use will descend into abuse or addiction.  Similarly, the ability to tolerate a substance without becoming impaired may be strongly influenced by genetic makeup, which in turn may increase your child’s tendency to abuse substances.

Don’t overlook or conceal your family’s history of substance abuse. The same genetic predisposition that influenced one family member to drink too much may lead another to become addicted to marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.

When you talk to your children about not smoking, drinking, or using other drugs, tell them about the family risk – that addiction is a disease and that it has a genetic component. You could also mention it during your child’s pediatric exam: “Doctor, I have something to share with you and my son about our family’s medical history.”

You and your children should not feel somehow doomed and marked by such a family history. As with any other disease that is linked to genetics – cancer, heart disease, diabetes—environment and lifestyle factors play a role in whether your child will develop the disease of addiction.

If this disease runs in your family, your children can choose, for example, not to drink – and you should be vigilant to watch out for the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. To learn more about those warning signs, click here.

Have you already talked to your kids about your family’s history with addiction? How did it go?

Comments:

  1. renee writes:

    very good advice!

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Think It’s Too Early to Start Talking about Drinking? Think Again.

May 18th, 2015

This month we’re delighted to have Frances M. Harding, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services share information on the role parents can play in underage drinking prevention, as part of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, which will be observed from May 17th – May 23rd. SAMHSA’s Talk. They Hear You. campaign helps parents and caregivers start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol. Check out the blog below!

Underage drinking is a serious problem in the United States, and often starts much earlier than most parents realize:

  • 10 percent of 9- to 10-year-olds have already started drinking.[i]
  • More than 20 percent of underage drinkers begin drinking before age 13.[ii]
  • 92 percent of the alcohol consumed by 12- to 14-year-olds is in the form of binge drinking.[iii]

But studies show that parents do have a significant influence on young people’s decision to drink.[iv]  In fact, 80 percent of kids believe their parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol.[v],[vi]

Your kids and teens are listening, and it’s critical that you send a clear and strong message. Parents who do not discourage underage drinking may have an indirect influence on young people’s decision to drink.[vii] So, it’s important to learn more about the dangers of underage drinking and talk to your kids early and often. It’s also important to know the facts:

  • Children who use alcohol:
    • Have higher rates of academic problems and poor school performance compared with nondrinkers;[viii]
    • Are more likely to be sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex; [ix],[x]and
    • Are more likely to have health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders.[xi]
    • Children who are frequent binge drinkers (nearly 1 million high school students nationwide) are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.[xii]

Sitting down to discuss underage drinking can be intimidating and awkward for everyone. Try using everyday opportunities to talk—in the car, during dinner, or while you and your child are watching TV. Having lots of little talks takes the pressure off trying to get all of the information out in one lengthy discussion, and your kids will be less likely to tune you out.

To help prepare for this conversation, check out SAMHSA’s Talk. They Hear You. app, available for download on iTunes, Google Play, the Windows Phone, and Windows Store. This free app uses avatars to help parents practice bringing up the topic of alcohol, learn the questions to ask, and get ideas for keeping the conversation going. Check out this quick video that highlights ways you can use the Talk. They Hear You. app to prepare for one of the most important conversations you may ever have.

SAMHSA’s Talk. They Hear You. website includes a number of resources to help parents address the issue of underage drinking and begin the conversation with their kids about the dangers of alcohol.

______________________________

Donovan, J., Leech, S., Zucker, R., Loveland-Cherry, C., Jester, J., Fitzgerald, H., et al.  (2004).  Really underage drinkers: Alcohol use among elementary students.  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 28(2), 341–349.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2012).  Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011.  Surveillance Summaries.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 61, SS-4, 1–162.

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. (2002). Drinking in America: Myths, realities, and prevention policy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Nash, S. G., McQueen, A., & Bray, J. H.  (2005). Pathways to adolescent alcohol use: Family environment, peer influence, and parental expectations.  Journal of Adolescent Health, 37(1), 19–28.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide to Action for Educators. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2007.

Jackson, C. (2002). Perceived legitimacy of parental authority and tobacco and alcohol use during early adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31(5), 425–432.

Sieving, R. E., Maruyama, G., Williams, C. L., & Perry, C. L.  (2000). Pathways to adolescent alcohol use: Potential mechanisms of parent influence.  Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10(4), 489–514.

Bonnie, R.J., and O’Connell, M.E. (Ed.). (2004). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. From http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2003/Reducing-Underage-Drinking-A-Collective-Responsibility.aspx (accessed May 3, 2012).

Fergusson, D.M., and Lynskey, M.T. (1996). Alcohol misuse and adolescent sexual behaviors and risk taking. Pediatrics, 98(1), 91–96.

Tapert, S.F., Aarons, G.A., Sedlar, G.R., and Brown, S.A. (2001). Adolescent substance use and sexual risk-taking behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 28(3), 181–189.

Bonnie, R.J., and O’Connell, M.E. (Ed.). (2004). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. From http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2003/Reducing-Underage-Drinking-A-Collective-Responsibility.aspx (accessed May 3, 2012).

Grunbaum, J.A., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Ross, J., Hawkins, J., Lowry, R., et al. (2004, May 21). Youth risk behavior surveillance— United States, 2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5302a1.htm (accessed May 3, 2012)

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Alcohol – The Most Popular Teen Drug

April 23rd, 2015

Teens are exposed to an excessive amount of promotion for alcoholic products like beer, wine, vodka, and sweetened or flavored alcoholic drinks daily. They are bombarded with glamorous and macho images of alcohol consumption on television, at sporting events, and at concerts. These constant messages play a role in making alcohol the most popular teen drug.

We know that teens are experimenting with alcohol at earlier ages than ever before and teens that are consuming alcohol will most likely do so in excess. This means that your child is drinking with the intent to get drunk, which is also known as binge drinking. According to the US Surgeon General “When youth between the ages of twelve and twenty consume alcohol, they drink on average about five drinks per occasion about six times a month.” Binge drinking can cause your teen to display uncharacteristic and dangerous behaviors. The decisions they make after binge drinking will often have serious and life changing consequences.

Teen alcohol abuse or binge drinking can lead to unprotected sex with several partners, driving while drunk, poor grades and sexual assault. Alcohol consumption is one of the top three causes of teen deaths. It can also harm their brain development; affect their memory, attention span and spatial skills. The younger a child starts to drink the more likely he/she is to have serious social problems later in life.

The key to prevention is being actively involved in your teen’s life. Talk to your children when they return home from hanging out with friends. Make it clear that drinking and driving is not acceptable; let them know that you will always be available for a safe ride home if they need it. Scientific evidence suggests that teen drinkers are less sensitive to the sedating and discoordinating consequences of drinking alcohol. Even if your teen doesn’t look drunk after a night out, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been drinking. As a parent, always remember that you have a major impact on the choices that your children make in their daily lives, especially during the preteen and teen years.

How often do you talk to your teens about the dangers and consequences of drinking alcohol? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Talk Early, Talk Often About the Dangers of Underage Drinking

April 9th, 2015

This month we’re delighted to have Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as our guest blogger. In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month we’ve invited them to discuss the dangers of underage teen drinking and PowerTalk 21® day—the national day to talk with your kids about alcohol. 

Of all the dangers your teen faces, underage drinking is among the worst. Compared with non-drinking classmates, teens who drink are more likely to:

  • Die in a car crash
  • Get pregnant
  • Flunk school
  • Be sexually assaulted
  • Become an alcoholic later in life
  • Take their own life through suicide

The good news is that you can make a difference! Parents have the power to help their kids make healthy decisions that can keep them safe.

As April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) established April 21 as PowerTalk 21® Day – the national day for parents to talk with their children about alcohol. MADD knows that informed, caring parents can make a difference and they have free resources to help them through the Power of Parents® program, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance®.

New for this year is a handbook specifically for parents of middle school students. When children are in middle school, many parents think it’s too early to talk about difficult subjects like alcohol. The reality is that young people are already forming their expectations for what alcohol is and how it could affect them as early as age 8 and are less changeable by the ages of 12-13.

Rather than waiting until it may be too late, parents must talk with their children sooner rather than later about the dangers of underage drinking. MADD also recommends parents regularly talk with their children to reinforce the message that underage drinking is not safe or acceptable – especially as tweens and teens mature and face new situations where peer pressure to drink is common.

MADD’s new handbook provides parents with research-proven strategies and tips for having productive conversations with middle schoolers about the consequences of drinking before 21. It builds on MADD’s original Power of Parents handbook, which was developed for parents of high school students.

Visit madd.org/powerofparents to download the Parent Handbook that’s right for you, and register for a free 15-minute webinar held on April 21st, PowerTalk 21 Day, for tips and tools to help you start the lifesaving conversation about alcohol with your kids. Every person who downloads the handbook or registers for a webinar between April 1st and April 21st will be entered to win one of several prizes—including a new Apple Watch Sport.

Start talking on April 21st, and together, we can help prevent underage drinking and save lives.

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How Do Messages in Music Affect Kids?

March 26th, 2015

Your child’s brain is constantly being filled, like a sponge, with new ideas and kids absorb that information and form ideas and opinions about the world and how things work. The music your child is exposed to is a big source of these ideas and unfortunately not all of this information will leave a positive impact on their lives.

At a very vulnerable age children are exposed to messages in music that make smoking, alcohol and drugs seem attractive.  They listen to songs about smoking pot and using Molly. Messages in music have a very strong influence, especially in adolescents whose brains are still developing and are still trying to define who they are and want to become. They won’t even realize just how much the music they are listening to are influencing their lives every day.

Did you know that one in three songs are anthems to the joys of getting drunk or stoned? Almost 80% of rap music mention alcohol or marijuana in the lyrics. Unfortunately rap music is not the only genre at fault; nearly 22% of country music and 15% of pop music sing about alcohol.

Some examples of lyrics in Top 40 songs that kids are singing along to are:

  • Miley Cyrus, the former and very popular Disney star, made national headlines for the inappropriate and drug promoting lyrics she recorded to her hit song, “We Can’t Stop”,  in which she sings, “Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere/ Hands in the air like we don’t care…We like to party, dancing with Molly, doing whatever we want.”
  • Blake Shelton in his country hit “Boys’ Round Here”, sings, “With the boys’ round here/drinking that ice cold beer…chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit”
  • Music mogul and icon rapper Jay-Z raps about Ecstasy and sleeping pills as part of the New York City party scene in “Empire State of Mind”: ‘MDMA got you feelin’ like a champion/the city never sleeps but it’ll slip you an Ambien”

Parental engagement can limit the influences of the messages in music today. Monitor and limit your child’s exposure to music by listening to the music they listen to; set limits on how much music or music videos they are exposed to daily; have discussions about what is being portrayed in music videos and what their favorite artist’s new song is all about. Provide your children with the right messages to replace the wrong ones. Raise kids that are critical thinkers about these issues. Is it really cool to smoke cigarettes or pot? Is it really sexy to drink/get drunk? Talking to your kids about the messages they hear in music will make a difference.

Children whose parents monitor their exposure are at a lower risk of substance use.

Do you know what music your son or daughter is listening to? Tell us in the comment section below.

Comments:

  1. Ramon Montoya writes:

    A very informative blog that points outs how we parents can help our kids learn the right messages.

  2. casafamilyday writes:

    Thank you for your comment, Ramon!

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How Should You Go About Enforcing Consequences?

February 26th, 2015

Being engaged in your children’s lives involves establishing expectations and limits. It means setting curfews and checking ahead with hosts of parties that your teens want to attend to make sure that a chaperone is present and alcohol is not. It means monitoring your children’s internet and social media activities, the movies they see, the concerts they attend, and the video games they play. It means enforcing consequences for stepping beyond the boundaries you set.

You can expect your kids to argue about almost every line you draw.

During CASAColumbia’s teen focus groups, kids have complained about the rules their parents established, but they also have admitted those rules show that “my parents really care about me.” Your children need and deserve guidance, information, supervision, and discipline. Children aren’t born knowing how to set their own boundaries. The rules you establish, the lines you draw, the messages you send, and the consequences you establish for violating those rules become your children’s internal compass for their own behavior.

Your children will appreciate and respect the rules you craft – not going to parties where alcohol is served, setting curfews and restrictions on movies or video games – if they understand the reasons behind those rules and if the rules are enforced consistently.  If you explain the logic behind the rules and limits, it will help your children tap into that logic when faced with tough decisions and to exert self-control when confronted with inevitable temptations.

To the extent possible, the consequences for breaking the rules should be laid out in advance. This way, children know what to expect if they push the limits and will be more likely to accept the consequences as fair. Another advantage is that if your child breaks the rules, you can focus on what caused the behavior and how to make sure it won’t happen again, rather than arguing about the punishment.

So what should you do if you find out that your child is smoking, drinking, or using other drugs?

Hopefully, you have already talked to your kids about substance use and discussed your expectations for their behavior and the consequences for violating those expectations. If so, and your child has broken those rules, then you could say: “I’m disappointed that you decided to drink [use drugs], and I’m concerned about your safety. I’d like to talk about what happened and why you did it, and how you plan to avoid doing it again. In the meantime, you know what the consequences for breaking the rules are: you can’t use the car [or you’re grounded] for a week [month].”

It’s important to enforce consequences if you catch your child drinking or using other drugs. There’s no upside to letting it slide. Assess the situation. Was it a one-time event? If you are unsure whether your child just tried a substance once or is using regularly, have your child evaluated by a professional.

For more information on raising healthy and substance free kids, check out How to Raise A Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents.

What are some rules and consequences you’ve set at home? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Introducing the 10 Facets of Parental Engagement

February 12th, 2015

You don’t need to be a supermom or superdad to be engaged in your child’s life and establish a strong connection with them. Being engaged simply requires taking advantage of your many opportunities to be a good parent each and every day. Like a brilliantly cut diamond, parental engagement has many facets. Listed below are ten facets of parental engagement that you can use as criteria for developing a strong moral framework in your kids.

1. Be there: Get involved in your children’s lives and activities.

2. Open the lines of communication and keep them wide open.

3. Set a good example: Actions are more persuasive than words.

4. Set rules and enforce them with consequences if your children fail to follow them.

5. Monitor your children’s whereabouts.

6. Maintain family rituals such as eating dinner together.

7. Incorporate religious and spiritual practices into family life.

8. Get Dad engaged—and keep him engaged.

9. Engage the larger community.

10. Get to know your kid’s friends and their parents.

The ten facets of parental engagement are tools that will help you raise substance free kids that make healthy and sensible decisions. YOU are the biggest influence on your child. Remember, parental engagement matters!

If you haven’t done so already, take our STAR Pledge and become a Family Day STAR with engaged parents all across the country. Also, let us know what being an engaged parent means to you in the comments below.

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Take a Hands-On Approach to Parenting

January 29th, 2015

Parents, you have the greatest power to influence your children—even your teens. You have more power than any law, peer, teacher, coach, or any family member to empower your children to make sensible, healthy choices throughout adolescence.

The key to Parent Power is being engaged in your children’s lives.

Hands-on parenting includes:

  • Having frequent family dinners
  • Supervising your kids
  • Setting boundaries
  • Establishing standards of behaviors (and consequences for failure to meet those standards)
  • Showing interest in their school, friends and activities
  • Loving and disciplining them
  • Being a good role model

Why is parental engagement so important? Because children of hands-on parents are far less likely to smoke, drink, or use other drugs.  During childhood and adolescence, drug use can interfere with your child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. The earlier and more often an adolescent uses substances, the likelier he is to become addicted.

Every year, month, and day that your child goes without taking that first puff, sip, hit, or pill decreases the likelihood that he or she will become addicted, develop related mental or physical illnesses as a result of substance abuse, or suffer tragic consequences of a substance-related accident.

Through your engagement, you can influence, teach, encourage, correct, and support your children so that they develop the will and skills to choose not to use tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.

Parent Power is the most effective instrument in the substance-abuse-prevention toolbox.

Looking for ways to help stay connected with your kids? Check out our Parent Toolkit that has conversation starter questions, facts about substance use, and ideas for fun activities to do as a family.

What are some ways that you stay involved in your kids’ lives? Tell us below.

Comments:

  1. Ramon Montoya MSW writes:

    Great information to give to parents !!!

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10 New Year’s Resolutions to try With Your Family

January 15th, 2015

Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to celebrating CASAColumbia® Family Day – Be Involved. Stay Involved.® with you in 2015. If you’re looking for ways to be a more involved parent this year, then check out our 10 New Year’s resolutions you can try with your family below. Remember, you can make Family Day every day in your home!

 

  • Take part in our Family Fun Challenges this year. Each month we post a fun and easy activity that will help you connect with your kids and build strong relationships. Check out January’s challenge by clicking here. Don’t forget to send us photos!
  • Attempt to complete every item in our Activity Kit for 2015. Treat your family to a special dessert if you can do all of them twice!
  • Sign up to be a Family Day Star! After you take the pledge, schedule time each month to check in with your kids and talk about the dangers of nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs.
  • Try at least 10 of the crafts/activities we post on our Facebook and Twitter pages every Friday. Send us pictures of you and your family with the finished product(s)!
  • Find a Family Day celebration going on in your community and attend with your family. You can also host your own! Check out some ways you can celebrate with your local community group by clicking here.
  • Use each one of our conversation starters at a family dinner this year. At the end of the year decide which ones were your favorites and see if everyone’s answers are still the same.
  • Teach your kids at least 5 new things this year. Does your child know how to ride a bike? Do they need someone to show them how to swing a baseball bat and hit a home run? Make sure you encourage them as they learn!
  • Turn your cell phones and electronics off during family time.
  • Cook more meals together as a family. Try a new healthful recipe or ingredient each time. For recipe ideas, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages on Thursday afternoons.
  • Make it a habit to connect with your kids right before bedtime. It can be a quick chat with your teen, reading your child’s favorite story together, or just a simple hug!

Are there any resolutions you made with your family that weren’t included above? Share your resolutions with us in the comments below.

Family Day will be celebrated on Monday, September 28th, 2015. We hope you’ll join us in spreading the message about the importance of parental engagement this year!

Comments:

  1. Ramon Montoya MSW writes:

    Great ideas, I am passing them on to the community.

  2. casafamilyday writes:

    Thanks for spreading the message about the importance of parental engagement to your community, Ramon!

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