We send our children to school thinking they will be safe from drug and alcohol exposure; unfortunately this is not always the case. Often times, school is where children are experimenting for the first time, buying drugs and making plans to party later.
By following some basic tips you can block potentially harmful scenarios that put your child in challenging situations.
- Stoners corner – every school has one. Driving by makes parents uncomfortable and they will usually make off-colored remarks about the kids who hang out there. Some parents will detour the carpool around ten additional blocks so their kids aren’t exposed to it, thinking avoidance will solve a possible drug problem. Talk to other parents you know at school and make a pact that each parent lets the other know if their child is spotted hanging out on the corner. This is only used as a way to monitor what your kids are up to. It’s important that when you do pass by, you do so without vilifying the kids who hang out there. If your child does decide to join them and he or she has heard you castigate the other kids repeatedly, they won’t come to you when there is a problem. It’s also good to set the tone of love and tolerance. When your child decides to talk about the “stoners,” be honest, ”Doing drugs is not healthy, it stunts growth, physically and emotionally, you can lose control of your ability to make good choices, and it can put you in very dangerous situations.”
- New school year – new friends. It’s always a good idea to ease into new friends. Teach you children this as a matter of etiquette. Parents will have a better idea what kind of friend their child has when they take the time to get to know them. Have their new friend over to the house or take them to the park. No one I know ever regretted taking it slow getting to know someone and more will always be revealed.
- “Buy – sell’s” happen in the bathroom, the locker room and behind buildings. Talk to your child about this so they aren’t caught off guard and help them learn to instinctually repeat the best sentence ever, “NO.” Yes, “No” is a complete sentence. When a child knows what might be coming down the pike and they have a response ready to use, they are more likely to walk away unscathed. It’s important to speak nonchalantly without fear so your child learns to stay present when they’re in a tough spot.
- After school free time at someone else’s house. Kids who are unsupervised afterschool sometimes will experiment before kids who are busy with extracurricular activities and clubs. Boredom and “hanging out” are fertile ground for riffling through medicine and liquor cabinets and experimenting with drugs. Knowing where your child is creates accountability – a skill they will be glad they have when they’re older.
- Change in plans = an immediate phone call. Plans have the ability to stand in between your child and a potentially dangerous situation. Since a lot of drug use before, during and after school can be thwarted by plans, make sure your child always has one. “What’s the plan today?” is a perfect question to ask them as they are being dropped off at school. Instill the family tenet that if there is ever a change in plans, a phone call to mom or dad is required and the new plan made known. If they’re older, having them leave a voice mail is appropriate, however if they’re tweens or young teens, it might be best that they speak with someone before taking off for the new destination.
School is supposed to be safe, but this is a crowded and sometimes crazy world so taking precautions never hurts. When my children questioned my guidelines, I would just shrug my shoulders and say (with an air of powerlessness), “Well, I am in charge of Health & Safety after all and I’m just doing my job.” They would pause, think about my job description, stop challenging me and march off on their merry way.
It’s hard to argue with that!