Melissa Gilbert is seldom at a loss for words. These days the celebrity mom is using her star power and voice to help parents navigate the always tricky landscape of drugs, addiction and alcohol with our families as the spokesperson for DrugFree.org. A few weeks ago I sat down with the star in NYC to hear her story and I want to share some highlights.
"All my good relationships are because I am sober," says Melissa. For her, getting control of her alcoholism has been a key factor in the next chapter of her life (if you want to read about the ups and downs of her life I recommend picking up her memoir Prairie Tale) and now the mom of 4 boys wants to take the lessons she's learned and share them. DrugFree.org (aka Partnership for a Drug Free America, This is Your Brain on Drugs, etc.) is all about getting knowledge and resources to parents. They've completely overhauled their site to make it easier and more efficient for parents to get the information they need quickly.
Melissa stated that a key time to communicate with your kids is during the transition from elementary to middle school. Often parents step away at this age and let kids experience a new sense of independence. Though no one recommends coddling, communication and monitoring are vital at this juncture.
The California mom said kids are smart and sneaky. Even under her savvy and watchful eye a teenager sneaked in booze to an alcohol-free bash she hosted for her 16-year-old son. The friend drank himself to the point of vomiting and a 0.185 blood alcohol level. He ended up fine (after a trip to the ER)--but Melissa says you can't just think a good school and good thoughts are going to do the trick. Parents need tools and a game plan.
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Here's the good news according to Melissa: Parents have more influence over their child than friends, music, TV, the Internet and celebrities.Kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not. We can make a difference. Need another reason to get involved? Watch this:
How and when do you get started talking with your kids? It's never too early and you can get the tips to make it easier. That's where DrugFree.org comes in. The revamped site has all the tools you'll need to get started or to start giving a child with a problem the right help. Here's what you'll find:
Prevent--A section on how to prevent addiction and abuse
Intervene--When and how to get involved with a child or family member's drug use.
Treatment--Links to resources for treatment
Recover--A lifelong guide to living a drug-free live
For parents like me, with younger kids, I went to the Parent's Tool Kit and then the Advice by Age section. For preschoolers, there is a list of 7 tipswill help you work with your preschooler so that she'll grow up happy, healthy and drug-free. For my older daughter, there are 9 Tips for kids K-3.
Parents of teens and tweens have pages and pages of advice in the Tool Kit. When it comes to tweens and teens, what can you do? Set clear expectations, monitor your child's behavior and follow up on consequences. The story that parents with addicted children tell again and again "I wish I had acted sooner" or "I wish I had trusted my instincts." Parents rarely regret getting involved early.
For more information visit DrugFree.org or call 1-855-DRUGFREE.
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