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Emergency alert: Go home, stay home

Submitted by Betsy Royal, Cornerstone These are the words that flashed on the cell phone screens of many South Carolinians as the Governor’s home and work only order came into effect. For many, home is where we have already been for several weeks now. After three or more weeks out, parents and students alike are missing school. Parents are missing a regular schedule and their students are missing spring activities, events, and mostly their friends. As much as they claim to hate school, it is a student’s refuge, it is their normal. Students spend the majority of their days walking the hallways of their schools under the influence of peers, teachers, and administrators.

Typically, this time of year, the halls are abuzz with plans being made for the weekend, prom, graduation, and summer vacation. This is also the time of year where we in the Substance Abuse Prevention field, spend time in schools promoting healthy decision making. We teach students about the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on their developing brain and body. We teach them about the laws surrounding substances as well as consequences they will experience if they break those laws.

Parents have been granted a special opportunity. We have been given the gift of time with our students that we normally don’t have because of the hustle and bustle of “real life.” Use this time to continue the conversation! Discuss as a family, your values and expectations, as well as what they can expect if those expectations are not met. Educating our students in any subject prepares them for what they will face as they grow and mature. In our homes, we need to take time to teach our kids about drugs and alcohol. What effects substances can have on the developing brain and body as well as household and legal consequences of use.

What parents need to know:

Facts are where it’s at! Use evidence-based, credible resources to gather your information. On our website you will find a list of many resources that have facts as well as games you can use to make the conversation more fun!

Different ages need different details! It is never too soon to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol, but remember, kids process and retain information differently depending on their developmental levels. Most of the resources we share on the link above break the information down into different age ranges.

Plan ahead! Make sure you plan for the question – “Well, did you ever?” Many times this question puts a parent on the defensive when it is actually a great opportunity. Be honest with your student but don’t share war stories. Use the opportunity to discuss what the different consequences were or could have been to the decisions you made.

Share family history! Science shows that addiction is a result of both genetics and choice. Knowing about a family history of addiction can tip the scales when a student is trying to weigh his or her options on whether to use a substance.

Make a plan! Come up with different scenarios with your student and ways they can get out of them. Plan out “exit strategies” for times when your student is faced with a high pressure decision. Remember, this pandemic will end at some point and our students will return to school. When they do, they will be faced with the same pressures and curiosities that were there before. Arm them with the knowledge that they need to make the best decisions. Right now it is up to you to continue the conversation!

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