Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 20, 2006, Herald Journal

Stay involved in your children’s lives

By JENNI SEBORA

Growing up, my parents did not speak much about the dangers of drugs and alcohol or about their position, “just say no.” We just knew it through their actions.

My father, who was a farmer and then, in my later childhood years, a “retired farmer,” was always around. Of course, he was working, as farmers do all day long, but he was always there, just a jaunt away.

My mom was a farmer’s wife, which meant working 24-7. She worked just as hard as my dad. She cooked large family meals, which we had daily, and was there for us when we got off the bus from school each day with a snack waiting.

My parents were involved in our lives. They supported us in school, attending conferences and school functions, and never missing an extracurricular activity my brother and I were in (which were many). They always supported us and the school.

In fact, during my senior year, our whole physics class (including the teacher) came over to our house for a homemade lunch that my mom had prepared on a Friday. At that time, my dad was “retired” and we had moved to town and lived right across from the school, which of course made it easy for anyone to come over for a quick cookie, snack, or visit, which my parents always welcomed.

Our door was always open to almost anyone. I had many sleepovers with my friends at my house with my parents’ supervision and my mom’s home cooking.

And of course, faith and going to church were a top priority for my parents. Going to Sunday school, release time, church youth activities, and attending church as a family was just expected and never questioned, and I’m glad.

So, even though my parents never really talked much about the negatives of alcohol, drugs, and other harmful substances, they “showed” their stance on it.

I know it’s a different world now, and both parents in many families have to work to earn enough income to raise their families, so sit-down homemade family meals at mealtime may not happen daily, but being there for our kids, supporting them, and conveying a negative stance on alcohol and drug use is something we can and must do as parents and caregivers.

The website www.theantidrug.com states that it is essential that we know where our teens and children are when they are away from home, and that we should give them coins, a phone card, or a cell phone with usage rules; for example, “When I leave you a voicemail, I expect a call back within 10 minutes.”

The website further offers these tips:

• Make a list of your child’s activities for the coming day and put it on the fridge or calendar or in your wallet.

• Know where you kids hang out.

• Know your teen’s friends. Have a get-together with the parents of his friends. Make a point of meeting and getting to know your children’s friends’ parents – through school events, meetings, practices, etc.

• Work with other parents to get a list of everyone’s addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers so you can keep in touch with your teen.

• Show up a little early to pick up your teen.

• Occasionally check to see that your teen is where he says he is going to be.

The website noted that lots of teenagers get in trouble with drugs right after school, 3 to 6 p.m., so the website recommends to try and be with your kids then, but if you can’t, make sure your child is doing something positive with an adult around: sports, extracurricular activities, after-school clubs and programs, or religious youth groups.

It is important that we are involved in our children’s lives at all ages. Teens who are close to their parents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

It’s important to talk to our children and build open and trusting relationships. The more we, as parents and caregivers, are in our children’s lives, the more valued they will feel, and the more likely they will respond to us.

The website further offers these tips for being and staying involved in our children’s lives:

• Establish time together. Establish a regular weekly routine for doing something special with your teen, even if it’s just going out for ice cream. Even a few minutes of conversation while you are cleaning up after dinner or right before bedtime can help the family catch up and establish the open communication that is essential to raising children who remain drug-free.

• Hold regular family meetings at a mutually agreed upon time to provide a forum for discussing activities, projects, triumphs, grievances, and any topic of concern to a family member. Establishing ground rules help, such as, everyone gets a chance to talk; one person talks at a time without interruption; everyone listens, and only constructive criticism is allowed. To get resistant children to join in, couple the meeting with a post-pizza treat, etc.

• And again, don’t be afraid to ask where your kids are going, who they are going with, and what they will be doing. These questions also show we care about them.

• Eat meals together as often as you can because meals are a great opportunity to talk about the day’s events, to unwind, and reinforce the family bond. The website noted that studies show that kids whose families eat together at least five times a week are less likely to be involved with drugs or alcohol.

Quote

“The only way to keep your children from going astray is for them to have a role model they can respect.”

– H.Watson, concerned parent