Believe it or not your opinion matters to your teenagers. According to the 2009 CSAC Charlestown Youth Health Survey, teens that reported that their parents would be disappointed if they used alcohol or other drugs were less likely to have used these substances. Letting your children know where you stand with regard to alcohol and drug use can help prevent their own use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Knowing how and what to communicate is key.
Since 2009, the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC) has partnered with health professionals at National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) on an important project to better understand and promote communication about alcohol and other drugs between Charlestown parents and their teens. The project, called Connect2Prevent, is supported with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The ultimate project goal is to develop an online resource for Charlestown parents to support effective communication with their teens.
The past year and a half has been busy for the Connect2Prevent project. In the Fall of 2009 the team hosted separate parent and teen focus groups in Charlestown to start a conversation about parent/teen communication. The focus groups were a huge success. Both parents and teens were highly engaged in the focus groups. Parents appreciated the opportunity to talk with each other about parenting, and teens appreciated the opportunity to talk openly about parents and teen issues. Both parents and teens asked for more such groups.
We learned from the focus groups that that parents and teens are communicating about alcohol and drugs. There were differences in parent and teen perspectives, however, in terms of how much communication is going on. Overall, while parents seemed to feel that they were communicating a “great deal” about alcohol and other drugs, teens felt that the extent of communication was somewhat less. The greatest difference came for communication about illicit use of prescription drugs. Most parents felt they had talked about the dangers “a great deal”, while a majority of teens indicated that such communication happened “not at all”.
Safety emerged as a key issue for parents, including concerns of drug dealing in local parks, and the influence of other’s drug use. Many parents also expressed concerns about peer pressure and substance use, and were eager to talk with other parents about how to effectively monitor, discipline, and support autonomy for their developing teens in the face of the myriad of opportunities and influences during this time. Both parents and teens want the same thing with regard to communication; both want to be respected and heard. Teens reported that a communication approach that includes direct and clear communication about expectations, as well as relevant examples and stories, would be help them better hear the message and be open to communicating together. Approaches such as accusations, scare tactics, or the instruction to “Just say No” without a clear explanation for why are less likely to reach youth. Parents wanted more information about the effects of alcohol and other drugs and ways to talk about alcohol and drugs to reach their young people.
RECRUITMENT IS STARTING for Phase 2 of the Connect2Prevent project! In this phase, parent/teen pairs from 150 households will be recruited to separately and privately complete online surveys that include questions about communication about alcohol and drug use. Information collected from the surveys will help Connect2Prevent develop programs and resources for Charlestown parents and youth.
Keep your eyes open for your opportunity to participate in this exciting project. In Janurary, a mailing will be sent out to Charlestown families that will include information about the project and how to get involved. Recruitment will start in January and continue into early 2011.
If you would like to learn more about this project, contact Jennifer Kelly of CSAC at 617-726-0059 firstname.lastname@example.org or Lucy Lorin of NDRI at email@example.com or 617-401-2284.