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Beyond Red Ribbon Week

Written by Annie Keese and Christina Martin
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3 Proactive Ways to Lead Your Kids toward Healthy Choices

It is very likely your child, or at least kid who you have influence over, has participated in Red Ribbon Week this October. Red Ribbon Week has been around since 1988. The “Drug Free is the Way to Be” slogan has morphed into “Drug Free Looks Like Me” for this generation, but the mission remains the same as ‘the nation’s largest and longest-running drug-use prevention campaign’. 

While educators and medical providers are very invested in seeing the kids grow into healthy adults, only parents and caregivers are the ones who will lead them each and every day. Don’t let the busyness of life or the awkwardness you may feel talking about uncomfortable topics keep you from the opportunity to influence your kids and their choices.

So how can you do that? The following 3 steps give you a place to start.

#1. Be Curious

The key to teaching healthy behavior is good communication and leading by example, but as our kids become young adults, it’s important to impart the ‘why’ behind the boundaries we expect our kids to honor. 

This process starts when your kids are very small, asking about their day, teaching them that it’s ok to talk about things and that you are safe. Your kids will be more open when they are teens, if the precedent has been set early on. Below are some questions you might find helpful as you bridge your daily conversations into questions about drugs and alcohol. 

  1. Who are safe adults in your life that you can confide in about things like drugs, alcohol, or just the pressure of growing up in this culture? 
  2. Who are your closest friends?
  3. What is it about them that makes them your closest friends?
  4. What are your thoughts about pot, alcohol, other drugs?
  5. Do you have any questions about drugs?
  6. What do you do when you are mad/sad/confused/afraid?
  7. Do you know how to get drugs? Have you ever thought about it?

While there might be a temptation to lecture on this topic, take a step back and just listen to their answers without pursuing an agenda with your kids. Share openly with them and let them know that you are interested because you love and value them.

#2. Be Proactive

Don’t neglect to manage the medicine in your own home. Secure and take inventory of your medicine cabinet to prevent prescription drug abuse. It’s not as simple as putting it out of a toddler’s reach anymore. This means intentionally choosing the best plan of action to remove access to medicine in your home.

#3. Be Available

Get to know the parents of your children’s friends. Work together to set boundaries and monitor concerning behaviors. Sporting events or field trips days give you a great opportunity to get to know the families of school friends. Together, a network of families can help promote a drug-free culture within their kid’s group of friends. 

Hosting hangouts in a safe space is a fun, proactive way to give your kids and their friends a place to be without the pressure of drugs. It may not seem like it, but so many kids are looking for safe, consistent people to lean on and learn from. Is your home a place that can happen? Brainstorm with your family on what hosting friends over more often would look like and when it does happen, don’t just retreat to your bedroom while they all hang out. Stick around and get to know these important people in your kids’ lives!

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