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 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.


  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.


  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!


  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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15 Holiday Conversation Starters To Try With Your Kids

December 15th, 2014

Happy Holidays! The holiday season is the perfect time to really connect with your loved ones. If you need some help getting the conversations started with your kids amid all your festivities, we’ve got you covered. Try some of our holiday-themed conversation starters below!

  • What is your favorite holiday tradition?
  • What is your favorite holiday activity to do with our family?
  • What is a new holiday tradition you’d like to start with our family?
  • What is your earliest memory of the holiday season?
  • What is your favorite Christmas carol or holiday-themed song to sing with our family?
  • What is your favorite holiday movie?
  • If you had to give anyone in the world your piggy bank for the holiday, who would you give it to and why?
  • What is the first holiday that you remember and what do you remember about it?
  • How do you feel when someone gives you a gift for the holiday?
  • How do you feel when you give someone a gift for the holiday?
  • What are some gifts you can give to others this year that that don’t cost any money at all?
  • If you could go on a dream vacation with our family during the holidays where would you like to go?
  • How can our family give back to our community during the holidays?
  • What is your favorite holiday dish or dessert?
  • How can you involve friends, neighbors, and pets in holiday activities?

If there are any additional conversation starters that work wonders with your kids during this time of the year, let us know in the comments below! We hope you have a fun-filled holiday season and a Happy New Year!

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How do you Keep the Lines of Communication Open with your Kids?

November 17th, 2014

This month we’re focusing on the unique challenges military families face when one parent is deployed. We’re delighted to have Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director for our Family Day Partner, the National Military Family Association, share some experiences that help her military family stay connected. Check out her story below!

As a parent, one of my highest priorities is staying connected with my children. Unfortunately, it’s also often one of my biggest challenges. Between work, school, sports, chores and extracurricular activities it can be hard to find the time to really talk–sometimes it feels like we’re all traveling 100 miles an hour in opposite directions.

My husband’s job in the military can make it even harder for him to stay connected to our two kids. For their entire lives the Navy has taken him away from home for long stretches at a time. He can’t always be there to cheer the kids on at their soccer games, help them with their math homework, or offer a listening ear after an argument with a friend. While this is normal for us, it isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are tools and tips out there to help my husband and other military moms and dads stay connected to their families while they have to be away.

When my kids were younger, they loved having their dad read them a bedtime story–it was one of the things they missed the most when he was away. Imagine how thrilled they were to receive a DVD of their dad reading them their favorite story! We received this amazing gift thanks to United Through Reading, a nonprofit organization that records service members reading stories for their children to watch at home. For a young child who may not fully understand where Mommy or Daddy is, or when they will be back, the video offers reassurance they are safe and thinking of home. My own young children were immensely comforted by seeing Daddy on the screen. And even years later, they fondly remember the book he read to them.

Families with young children can also check out Military Families Near and Far, a site created by Sesame Workshop to help parents and kids stay connected during deployment. The site includes fun tools to help families share videos, artwork, and photos and tips to help parents support their kids through deployment and homecoming–all featuring kids’ favorite Sesame Street characters.

Unfortunately, bedtime stories and furry monsters don’t do much for teenagers, so we have had to find other ways to help the kids feel connected to their dad. Technology has been a huge help with this. While I usually try to limit the amount of time the kids spend on their various electronic devices, there’s no denying that technology makes it much easier to stay in touch when Dad’s away. The trick has been finding the method the kids prefer and using that, regardless of parental technophobia. Sometimes it feels impossible to keep up with them. Email? So last year. Facebook? Over it. While my husband has yet to dive into Instagram or Snapchat (and probably never will), he’s become adept at texting and even promised to check out Face Time the next time he deploys.

Staying connected with kids is always hard, and a career in the military can make it feel even more challenging. The key is to find ways to make sure the kids know that their Dad is always there for them – even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

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CASAColumbia® Family Day 2014 Celebrations

October 16th, 2014

We hope you had a great Family Day this year! We’d like to thank all of our Sponsors, Partners, and Participants who helped us spread the word about the importance of parental engagement.

We’re delighted that Presenting Sponsor The Coca-Cola Company partnered with Chick-fil-A restaurants to host Family Day events at three restaurants within the Los Angeles area and that 26 State First Spouses served as Honorary Chairs of Family Day this year. First Lady of Maine Ann LePage, First Lady of Maryland Katie O’Malley, First Lady of Indiana Karen Pence and First Lady of Wisconsin Tonette Walker hosted Family Day events on September 22nd. To see photos of the First Lady of Wisconsin Tonette Walker’s visit to Journey House, click here. To read First Lady of Texas Anita Perry’s blog post about Family Day, click here. To view First Lady of West Virginia Joanne Jaeger Tomblin Public Service Announcement about Family Day, click here.

Many local community groups celebrated CASAColumbia Family Day including:

  • Burke County Health Department in Morganton, NC who hosted their 7th annual Family Day event at Catawba Meadows Park. Around 4,000 guests celebrated with activity booths, crafts, and a picnic dinner.
  • Putnam P.R.I.D.E. in Putnam, CT partnered with their local family resource center and recreation department to co-sponsor a Family Day event at their Rotary Park. Close to 1,000 attendees enjoyed activities for families and a free concert.
  • EMPOWER Porter County in Valparaiso, IN held Family Day events at three YMCAs in Porter County with around 800 attendees. The events included potluck dinners and various activities for kids and their families.
  • Family and Friends United in Orlando, FL celebrated once again at Orlo Vista Park with crafts for kids and awards for elected community officials. 50 volunteers, about 20 vendors, and over 700 parents and children attended.
  • Henderson Family Court in Henderson, KY hosted a Family Day event at Freedom Park with face painting, bouncy houses, story time, and food demonstrations. Their local farmer’s market was present, and over 300 people in the community attended.

How did your family celebrate CASAColumbia Family Day this year? Did you attend any of the events listed above? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget that every day can be Family Day in your home! Try some of the items in our Activity Kit with your kids tonight! You can also take our Star Pledge, participate in our daily conversations on Twitter and Facebook and challenge your family with our 30 Day Family Fun Challenge!

To see photos from some of the events listed above as well as photos from other Family Day celebrations click here. Send your Family Day photos to

We look forward to celebrating Family Day with you next year on Monday, September 28th, 2015. Please mark your calendars!


  1. Ramon Montoya writes:

    Padres Adelante Family Services Inc. in Denver conducted a fun and successful Family Day Dinner this past September 22nd. Thanks to CASA and Denver RAP for helping sponsor the program.

  2. casafamilyday writes:

    Thanks, Ramon, for letting us know about Padres Adelante Family Services’ event in Denver! Please send us photos at

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