Hands-on Parents Save Lives

April 20th, 2016

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 PowerTalk 21® day—the national day dedicated to inspiring conversations between parents and their kids about alcohol. Check out the blog below!

Sometimes it just takes a word.

The right conversation between a parent and a child can be life changing and, more importantly, lifesaving.

That’s why MADD appreciates Family Day, a program created by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse aimed at celebrating parental engagement as an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.

Sometimes, parents can feel they have little influence on their child or teen, especially between the strong influence exerted by the media and their child’s friends. But that’s simply not the case, as we discuss in PowerTalk 21®. Like Family Day, PowerTalk 21® is a national day – April 21st – dedicated to inspiring intentional, ongoing, and possibly lifesaving conversations between parents and their kids about alcohol. PowerTalk 21® is part of MADD’s Power of Parents program, sponsored by Nationwide.

This year, the program examines research by Dr. Robert Turrisi, PhD, whose groundbreaking research on teens and alcohol consumption continues to shatter drinking myths. His research, coupled with a nationwide public opinion survey, indicates that parents are actually THE most influential when it comes to shaping a teen’s opinions and actions regarding alcohol.

Parents are naturally role models, and kids look to them for guidance, especially for an issue like underage drinking that includes so much peer pressure, misinformation, and glamorization. The best strategy is a two-pronged approach – TELL your kids about the dangers of alcohol and then SHOW them the correct behavior. And don’t limit the conversation to just drinking and driving. Include the importance of not riding with a non-sober driver, as well.

Download our newest handbook today to learn the most effective strategies for making this conversation stick with your child or teen. When you do, you will be automatically entered to win an Amazon Echo, Kindle Fire HD, or one of two $50 gift cards.

Family Day and PowerTalk 21® both seek to tap into the Power of Parents to influence their kids. Talk to yourkids today. Please believe that you can make a difference.


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Alcohol Marketing to Teens

April 14th, 2016

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which provides the perfect opportunity to talk to your child about the dangers of underage drinking. Teens are constantly being exposed to images that promote drinking. Alcohol manufacturers spend billions of dollars on television, radio, print, and outdoor advertising, with the intention of enticing kids. Alcohol advertising influences not only how kids and teens perceive drinking, but also whether and how much they intend to drink. While you can’t prevent your child from seeing the alcohol advertising around them, you can change the way they think about drinking by talking to them about the alcohol ads they see. Teach them to think critically about alcohol advertising by asking questions like: Who is paying for this ad? What is this purpose of the ad?  What myths about drinking does the ad promote?

Children and teens may be more susceptible to advertising than adults. Researchers have found that the more familiar kids are with beer brands and slogans, the more positively they view drinking and the more frequently they express a desire to drink beer. In essence, the more ads children see, the more they want to drink. More than one in five TV alcohol commercials are placed on programming that is geared to twelve- to twenty-year-olds, and the likelihood of your child seeing an alcohol ad while watching TV has been increasing since 2001.

Did you know the alcohol industry devises special products to make alcohol appealing to kids? Their kid-friendly products include sweet-tasting and colorfully packaged malt or other alcohol-based beverages known as malternatives or alcopops, such as Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Bacardi Ready to Serve Cocktails. These products are designed to look like soft drinks and their sweet and fruity flavors have become a favorite among teens, especially girls. In addition, dessert-like liquors are becoming more and more popular for teens who want to try the new marshmallow-flavored vodka or red velvet cake-flavored malt drinks. Hard liquor is now tied with beer as the favored drink of thirteen- to twenty-year-olds, with sweetened drinks like alcopops close behind.

Alcopops are also designed to make drinking easier for your child. They come in bottles with twist-off tops, which are easy to open outside of the home, where children are often drinking. They have a higher percentage of alcohol when compared to beer. This is because companies know kids are drinking to get drunk. You’ll often see these drinks in small grocery stores and corner markets, places where drinking-age laws are oftentimes less strictly enforced.

If you think your child may be drinking, smell their breath for alcohol and look into their eyes and talk to them when they come home at night from a friend’s house or after a party. Also, try having a conversation with your kids tonight about alcohol and how they feel about alcohol advertising. Share with them what you learned from this blog. What information was most helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Smoking Cigarettes or Marijuana and the Teen Brain

March 24th, 2016

Nicotine and marijuana can seriously harm teens’ brains, sometimes causing long-term and permanent damage. Do you know all the ways nicotine and marijuana can damage your teen’s brain? How often do you talk about it with your teen?

Heavy cigarette smoking has been found to negatively affect the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain controls skills such as decision making and impulse control. The prefrontal cortex can be permanently altered if a teen smokes cigarettes regularly, and other parts of the brain have to pick up the slack. This causes you teen’s brain to work less efficiently than it should.

Regular marijuana use also harms your teen’s brain. It can lower your teen’s IQ and spark latent schizophrenia (a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder). Your teen most likely knows that there are consequences associated with marijuana use, even if they don’t want to admit it. During a discussion about drugs and alcohol with your child ask them if they know anyone in school who is labeled as a “pothead” or a “stoner.” Your teen might describe this person as acting lazy, goofy, or disinterested. They may even find it funny. This is a perfect opportunity for you to point out that such conduct is also a consequence of marijuana use. Let your teen know regular marijuana use will harm their brain and could alter their personality.

Your child’s brain is developing, and it is a precious, complex, sensitive device. Their brain is more vulnerable to the damaging and addictive effects of alcohol and other drugs than the brain of an adult. You have the power to protect your child’s brain and help develop it in a healthy way.

Keep the lines of communication open when talking to your kids about alcohol and other drugs. Try our “8 Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Substance Use.”

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Bringing Families Together Over Good Food and Good Books

March 8th, 2016

This month we’re delighted to have First Lady of Wyoming Carol Mead as our guest blogger. With the help of a coalition of community partners, First Lady Mead launched Eat. Read. Grow., a Cheyenne-based program that encourages families to spend time together over meals and to read together at home. Learn more about the program in our blog below!

Understandably, when families experience financial stress, putting food on the table rises to the top of their priorities and leaves a potential for less available time and energy to be devoted to encouraging literacy. With the hope of reducing some of these pressures so families can focus on their children and their children’s success in school and beyond, I launched Eat. Read. Grow. Modeled after a program in Casper, Wyoming called Book and a Bite, the program aims to encourage families to spend time together over meals and to read together at home, both activities that experts have told me boost children’s self-confidence by strengthening the parent-child bond and support their earliest educational experiences by cultivating intellectual curiosity and literacy skills. And since children who read proficiently at grade level by third grade are far less likely to drop out of high school than kids who don’t, encouraging early literacy is a key tenet in a child’s success in school and in life.

The concept and events are simple. A dinner is hosted for financially disadvantaged families. The families spend quality time together over the meal, enjoy a few stories read by “celebrity” readers, learn about community services from which they may benefit, and go home with an age-appropriate book for each of their children and a bag of fresh groceries and pantry supplies. With a full refrigerator and pantry, families can engage in activities like reading together.

Since 2013, we’ve hosted eight events in Cheyenne. The concept is gaining momentum, with similar programs up and running in seven other Wyoming communities.

The program is easy to replicate. There are really only a handful of elements needed.

  • A venue is needed that can accommodate a dinner for the desired number of attendees. School gymnasiums work great! So do senior centers and community centers.
  • A meal that is easy to serve is the main component. In Cheyenne, we have had meals donated by local restaurants and now work for a high school catering program that prepares and serves the meal for a nominal cost.
  • “Celebrity” readers can be local firefighters or police officers, high school sports teams and/or cheerleaders, the mayor, or some other figure that kids admire. We often project an electronic version of the book while the reader reads so everyone has a good view of the illustrations and words.
  • Age-appropriate books for the children who attend are easy to come by through book drives (gently used or new) or through community programs offered by many publishers of children’s literature. We use the FACE program through Scholastic, which offers new books at a reduced price. Each child at our event gets to choose his or her own book, an empowering experience for young children and one that allows them the freedom to explore their areas of interest.
  • Our local food bank provides a bag of fresh groceries and pantry supplies for each family to take home. Many families who attend our events report that the groceries are a main reason for their participation.

We started very small in Cheyenne – serving only about 80 people for the first couple of events. We recruited families through an after school program that operates at Title I schools to ensure we reach families who could benefit from it. We now serve about 120 people per event. Our costs are fairly low – about $700 per event, and we’re able to support the program through small community grants and private donations. Our handful of dedicated volunteers keep the program running, and literature or booths provided by local organizations provide information on resources – such as reduced energy rates, meal budgeting and nutrition, and local tutoring services – from which the families can benefit.

The most rewarding part of the program is seeing children and families interact over a meal and a good story. For more on Eat. Read. Grow, visit our webpage.







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When Kids Use Stimulants to Get “Smarter”

February 29th, 2016

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is becoming a common diagnosis among kids. This means more children and teens, and even college-aged kids, are taking prescribed stimulant drugs such as Adderall to help them improve their concentration. Did you know nearly 21 million prescriptions were handed out to adolescents in 2012?

Many kids are calling stimulant drugs “Good-Grade” pills or “Study Aids.” Students who aren’t suffering from ADHD will take these drugs to help them get an extra edge in the classroom. Kids have easy access to stimulant drugs because most of them know someone at school who will sell them Ritalin or Adderall for as little as $5.00 a pill. Also, college students have learned that they can feign symptoms of ADHD and get their own prescription from a doctor. Kids often don’t view these drugs as risky because of the rise in numbers of teens being diagnosed with ADHD and because they think these drugs are “just used to boost school performance.”

There are parents that may tell you that stimulants helped their child who doesn’t have ADHD improve their grades. They might suggest you do the same to help your child. While they may be trying to help, they need to realize that they’re encouraging their child to take a pill they don’t need and may become dependent upon in the future. Your child’s school may even suggest medication for ADHD, but whether or not your child has ADHD is something for you and your child’s doctor to decide. If a teacher, administrator, or school nurse recommends that your child should be medicated, you could get a second opinion from your child’s pediatrician or from an adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist. You can go to an education testing service that specializes in evaluating children for disorders such as ADHD. Remember, if a child is having trouble focusing in the classroom, it does not necessarily mean that ADHD is to blame or that medication is the solution.

It’s important to make sure your child understands that prescription drugs are to be used only as directed by a doctor. Talk to your child’s teachers, coaches, and counselors at their school. See if they are being vigilant about students not sharing ADHD medications and that they are educating kids about why it’s risky to do so.

How often do you check in with your child to make sure they aren’t feeling too much pressure to perform well in school? Let us know in the comments below.

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Beware of Parental Peer Pressure

February 11th, 2016

Do you have rules in your home? Do you set a curfew for your child? Do you tell your teen they can’t watch television until after they finish their homework? Do you insist on knowing the whereabouts of your teen? If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s likely that you’ll receive a response such as this from your child, “But Mom, Olivia’s parents let their kids do these things. They’re, like, so much cooler than you.” In this type of situation it’s important to stand your ground. Children of the “cool” parents are likelier to get into hot water.

Beware of parental pressure. Oftentimes many parents succumb to the same kind of peer pressure they want their kids to be strong enough to resist. It can be difficult to tell your child that they can’t stay out past 11:00pm or watch R-rated movies when the parents of their friends allow their kids to stay out late and watch any movies they want. Remember, you have the right and the power to set your own family standards. Your child may get angry when you enforce your family’s rules, but eventually they will get the message and live within the boundaries you set. If you do not want your child to be influenced by peer pressure to smoke, drink, or use drugs, then you need to set the standard with your own conduct.

Also, you can’t isolate preventing substance use by your child from your involvement with other behaviors. You cannot be a “good” parent about drugs and alcohol unless you know about your child’s activities and interests, and set limits such as curfews, teach respect for adults, monitor your child’s time on the Internet, and are otherwise consistently engaged in your child’s daily life. All of these things are a part of helping your child get through the dangerous decade from ten to twenty-one without smoking, drinking, or using drugs.

Do you need some help engaging with your teen and getting the conversation started? Take a look at our Parent Toolkit: Teen Edition for conversation starters, family fun ideas, and even more parenting tips. Also, we encourage you to share some rules you have in your home in the comment section below.

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How Do I Get My Teen to Understand the Dangers of Marijuana?

January 28th, 2016

Do you live in a state that has legalized marijuana for all adults or medical marijuana for some? Even if you don’t, changes in laws may be making it difficult for you to raise a marijuana-free kid. The argument that you shouldn’t use marijuana because it’s illegal no longer carries the same weight it did in the past. Despite this, you still have the power to help your teen make healthy choices. Over the last few years we have learned a great deal about how marijuana use can be dangerous for your teen.

Did you know that today’s marijuana is more potent than it was in the 1970s and 1980s? It’s actually ten times more potent than it was a generation ago. Today’s marijuana, even in small amounts, can cause a loss of physical coordination and a deterioration of motor skills. Marijuana can also adversely affect your teen’s memory, his/her ability to learn and concentrate, and his/her neurological and emotional development. Teens who smoke marijuana often are at risk of suffering respiratory problems similar to those of tobacco smokers, including chronic bronchitis, coughing, wheezing, chest sounds, and increased phlegm.

There’s also a new and more destructive type of marijuana available. Synthetic marijuana, also referred to as “Spice” or “K2”, has recently jumped to fourth place among substances abused by 8th and 10th grade students. Its makers tempt kids with flavors like apple, blueberry, and bubblegum, and with brand names such as Scooby Snax. Most users are under the age of 25 and have been found to suffer from overdose symptoms such as hallucinations, extreme paranoia, violence, increased heart rate, inability to feel pain, hypothermia and even seizures.

What if your child asks, “How can smoking pot be dangerous if it’s medicine and given out by a doctor?” or “If weed is such a bad drug, wouldn’t it be illegal?”. Use the facts about the harmfulness of the drug and explain that the FDA has a careful process in place for approving prescription drugs and medicines, and that smoked marijuana has never been through that process. Remind your teen that alcohol is a legal drug for adults, but illegal for those under 21. Why? Because of the damage that alcohol can do to brains that are still developing. Marijuana use can also damage a developing teen brain.

You have the power to shape your child’s perception of marijuana. Start talking with your kids at an early age and take time to explain things to your child in basic terms that are easily understandable. Make your child feel comfortable talking to you about difficult topics such as nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. How often do you discuss the dangers of marijuana with your teen? Let us know in the comments below.

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10 New Activities to Try with Your Family in 2016

January 14th, 2016

Happy New Year! We hope you enjoyed the holidays and we thank you for all of your support in 2015. We look forward to celebrating CASA Family Day – Be Involved. Stay Involved.® with you again this year. If you need some new ways to help you connect with your kids in 2016 we’ve got you covered. Check out 10 new and fun activities you can try with your family.

  • Create a vision board with your kids. What are your child’s goals this year? Cut out pictures from old magazines and print out inspiring quotes that represent what your child wants to achieve over the next 12 months. Display the board in your child’s room.
  • Make a family time capsule and fill it with items that symbolize some of your family’s favorite things. Hide it in a safe place and then take it out at the end of the year and see what has changed.
  • Go indoor rock climbing and see who can reach the top first!
  • Learn some yoga poses together or try a yoga class that welcomes parents and kids. This is a great way to de-stress while exercising together.
  • Go to a local sporting event together. Before the game make shirts or hats that will help you cheer on your favorite team.
  • Volunteer as a family. Help clean up a park or beach in your community or visit the elderly at a nursing home.
  • Try a new recipe with your family. Go to the supermarket together and find the ingredients and then let everyone help prepare the meal.
  • Take an art class together and then frame your drawings/paintings and hang them up in your favorite room or display them on your fridge.
  • Do a science project together. Build a volcano, make rock candy, or create your own model of the solar system. This is a great way to get your kids excited about learning!
  • Do all of our Family Fun Challenges this year. Send us a photo at familyday@casacolumbia.org each time you complete one. Check out January’s challenge by clicking here.

Are there any activities you and your family have talked about trying this year that aren’t included above? Share them with us in the comments below!

Family Day will be celebrated on Monday, September 26th, 2016. Please mark your calendars and remember, you can make Family Day every day in your home!

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Connecting with Your Family During the Holiday Season

December 10th, 2015

This month we’re delighted to have Family Day Mom Blogger, Jen Frost, discuss some ways she connects with her family during the holiday season. Jen is a quilter and crafter who shares her faith through fabric. She’s a pattern writter, quilt designer, and book author. When she’s not in front of her sewing machine, she can be found at the beach with her husband and son, toes happily buried in the sand. She writes and quilts each week at Faith and Fabric.

Check out the blog below!

Amidst the busy times that the holidays bring, it becomes more important to carve out some down time for both you and your family. Parents are often busy shopping, preparing holiday meals, driving children back and forth from parties, attending concerts and winter events…the list goes on. While each of these events is fun, the added stress they put on the calendar (plus the constant interactions with friends and extended family) need to be balanced by some quiet time at home between parents and their kids.

A great place to share some holiday fun time together – just as a family – is in the kitchen. The kitchen is often one of the most busy rooms in the house, and a location where both quality and quantity time can be spent.

Here are a few ways you can cook up some down time with your family this holiday season:

  1. Talk about the traditional foods you ate at holiday meals when you were a child. Children love hearing stories about their parents, and this will give you the opportunity to pass down traditions and stories to the next generation: your children. As you tell the stories, prepare a dish or two that you discuss in your story.
  2. Plan out your holiday together. Sit around the kitchen table and let each person share a few things they want to do this holiday season. It may be ice skating in the park, taking in a Christmas concert, seeing Santa, or shopping for presents. Determine the number of activities that are right for your family – and won’t bring too much of a stress – and put them on a calendar that gets stored in a central location in the home. (The front of the fridge is a great place.) Save your calendar and tuck it away with your decorations; it’s fun to come back in future years and see what your family was up to in the past!
  3. Bake cookies. Whether you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, or all of the above, there are countless recipes out there that you can make with your family to celebrate the holidays. One of my favorite recipes is for Christmas Peanut Butter Balls – my mom and sister made them every year, and they are a tradition I make with my family now as well (plus you can eat them raw, so licking the spoon is encouraged!).
  4. Wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher. It may seem counter-intuitive, but standing side-by-side – and not face-to-face – opens up opportunities for deeper discussion. Kids are more likely to open up to you if they don’t feel like there’s pressure to have “serious discussions”, and may feel more comfortable having them if they don’t have to look you in the eye and can instead just focus on a joint activity the two of you are doing.
  5. Decorate the kitchen – and other rooms in the house – together. It’s true that it would probably be faster to decorate the house on your own, but be sure to involve the whole family in the process. Your kids will love helping set out the decorations, determining where they go, and seeing the progress that the family makes together as a team. It’s a feeling of accomplishment you can all share together!


  1. CASAColumbia - Connecting with Your Family During the Holiday Season - Faith and Fabric writes:

    [...] pushed aside during the shopping, cooking, visiting, and celebrating. Here are some ideas on how to connect with your family during the holiday season – my guest post over on [...]

  2. Karee Santos writes:

    When visiting my parents this Christmas, my dad and I returned to my childhood pattern of him washing the dishes and my drying them — it really was a great way to connect and brought back nice memories!

  3. casafamilyday writes:

    Thank you for sharing how you connect with your dad during the holidays, Karee!

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10 Thanksgiving Conversation Starters You Can Try With Your Kids

November 24th, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is the perfect time to show your family and loved ones how much you appreciate them. A great way to show your kids that you appreciate them is by really listening to them and taking an interest in what they have to say.

If you need some help getting the conversation started with your kids while prepping the meal together, or while sitting down for your Thanksgiving dinner, we’ve got you covered. Try some of our Thanksgiving conversation starters below!

  • Who is the funniest person at the table and why?
  • What are you most thankful for this year?
  • What do you like the most about Thanksgiving? And why?
  • What is something new you learned about Thanksgiving this year?
  • What can you do to help clean up after Thanksgiving dinner?
  • Who is someone you could say “thank you” to today? And why?
  • What Thanksgiving tradition do you enjoy the most?
  • What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish or dessert?
  • How does it make you feel when someone does something really nice for you?
  • How does it make you feel when you do something really nice for someone else?

If there’s any additional conversation starters you try with your kids during this time of the year let us know in the comments below! We hope you enjoy connecting and spending time with your family this Thanksgiving.

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