Children First: Open communication with parents keeps kids sober - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Open communication with parents keeps kids sober

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A recent survey by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds students on average say 47 percent of their classmates drink and 40 percent use drugs.

Even more sobering, the survey finds nearly nine in ten students say classmates are drinking or using drugs during the school day.

Parents often feel they have less influence on their kids' choices than their friends, but new data suggest otherwise.

"I can go to my parents with any problem, anything," said Ann Shoemaker, a senior at Stevens High School who says she has a great relationship with her parents.
 
And unlike some teenagers, she actually takes what they say seriously.
 
"My friends can be there, but I think my parents give me better advice," she said. "They've been through it before; they know what I'm going through."
 
New data from Rapid City schools suggest those open lines of communication can keep kids away from drugs and alcohol.
 
"Parents have a real impact on their kids' choices," said Nikkole Abbas, community outreach coordinator for anti-drug group Lifeways.
 
Abbas told the organization in September that Rapid City students are far less likely to use drugs or alcohol if they feel they can talk to their parents.
 
"As parents," she said, "we often feel like once kids are in high school, once they're a certain age, they don't listen to us anymore, they just want to hang out with their friends and listen to their friends, and that we don't have any power, but we actually do."
 
Survey statistics back that up.

Kids who say they can talk to their parents knowing they might be extremely upset are about 2.5 times less likely to drink than those who don't talk and don't feel their parents would be upset.

Twenty-eight percent of high-schoolers surveyed in the first group they've ever had a drink, compared to 74 percent in the second.

The difference is even more pronounced when it comes to marijuana use: 16 percent in the first group say they've ever used marijuana, compared with 65 percent who say they can't talk to their parents about their problems.
 
"Just because kids think their parents will be extremely upset doesn't necessarily mean the consequences will be harsh," added Abbas.
 
She said that balance between open communication and fair punishments is critical in establishing real trust, which Shoemaker noted benefits everyone.
 
"If you have great trust with your parents," Shoemaker said, "they'll let you do kind of some of the things you want to do more freely."

Abbas said another way good communication can help kids avoid bad situations is by coming up with outs.

Children can come up with code words or phrases to say on the phone to parents to let them know they want to leave a situation where drugs or alcohol may be consumed without their friends pressuring them to stay.

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