Last Thursday, parents, educators and counselors gathered at Victory High School in Rocklin for a workshop on teen wellness and the risks of marijuana use by youth. Open to the public, this event was co-sponsored by the Coalition for Placer Youth, Wellness Together, the Rocklin School District/Victory High School, and other community resources and partners of CPY, Kids First, the Rocklin Police Department, Community Recovery Resources, Relentless Rescue, The Lighthouse, Panera Bread, Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks Coffee, Kaiser Permanente, Recovery Happens, and Core Connectivity.
As a founding member of CPY, a coalition devoted to youth substance abuse prevention strategy, I have learned that conditions favorable for teen drug use and addiction include: 1) increased youth stress and anxiety levels, and 2) a reduced perception of risk of harm for a particular intoxicating substance. In today’s context, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, for example, signals a decrease in public perception of risk of harm. So the purpose of this event is to explain the risk of harm for marijuana use on young brains, and to educate parents and educators about the practical ways they can help teens respond in healthy ways to the chronic stress of modern life.
We all experience how this stress of “always on” cyber connectivity via texting and social media steadily intensifies emotion in our society, and the anxiety accompanying this chronic stress can form a barrier to communication essential to honest and open conversations about the drug trends in youth peer communities, and what is happening in their own lives. And yet, this open communication is critical for helping youth cope with stress, reinforce good decisions about drugs and alcohol, and pursue wellness.
Christina Ivazes, Executive Director of CPY, headed up the organization of the event. “While the overall statistics of youth substance abuse are going down, the stress levels for teens are going up,” she said, “And so we need to help ourselves and our youth with stress.” Below are some of the insights and tips for parents and educators of today’s teens:
Know the risks of marijuana on young brains. Today’s marijuana contains more potent THC levels (the chemical component that makes you high) than that of generations past. And so the impact on the neurochemical balance of the young developing brain can create problems ranging from impairing brain development and addiction to psychotic snaps in the most extreme cases. Many professionals treating teens for drug abuse and addiction are dealing with increased issues with marijuana. (Source cited: The Other Side of Cannabis documentary by www.hearts-gate.com)
Practice mindfulness techniques with your teen. This calming impact can help address anxiety of daily life pressures. They recommend free apps, like Pacifica, to experience guided meditation to create an overall calm state. (Source: www.thinkpacifica.com).
Listen to your teen, and get them help if they are caught using. Community Recovery Services, an addiction treatment center in Roseville, held a question and answer session with a local teen, 17-years-old, in recovery from drug addiction. According to this teen, getting caught was a good thing for him because now he has a better relationship with his parents. When asked what some of the issues are for youth today, he replied, “[There is a belief] that parents don’t understand them and their experiences,” he said. “Kids use drugs to escape pressures, anger and tension with parents who are ‘nit-picking’.” He explained that some signs your teen might be using drugs or alcohol include: red eyes, always sleeping, vague about what they are doing/where they are going, stop caring about things they used to enjoy, dropping out of things and having no desire to be with family.
Communicate with your teen. Open and honest conversation about drug trends and the issues teens are experiencing in their social life requires some basic skill. Marlon Morgan, Executive Director and Founder of Wellness Together, offers high-impact tips for parents to engage their teen in dialogue.
- Use “I statements”; focus on expressing your point of view about a concern you have regarding your teen’s behavior. “I feel concerned when I do not see you spending time on your homework, and it makes me wonder what is distracting you and if you need help.”
- Use your “adult voice” with your teen, which is not-judgmental. Remember your aim in communication is to strengthen the relationship, not to be right.
- This is how to establish a dialogue wherein it is safe to share points of view and feelings. This is how to avoid a power struggle, and begin to problem solve.
To learn more about talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol, go to: Coalition for Placer Youth
If you suspect your child is having an issue with drugs, go to: Recovery Happens
To work with your teen to create a family culture of open communication and individual resilience go to: Fresh Start
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.