The bi-annual South Carolina Communities That Care (CTC) survey garners data from a sample of 9th and 11th graders in Newberry County.
Responses to the 2012 survey showed most indicators of community youth usage of alcohol and tobacco are trending in a healthy direction. That’s not to say the battle is won, but just that we are making an impact in those areas.
Twenty-six percent of youth completing the 2012 SC CTC said that they used alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. That is down from 50 percent in 2010. Youth reporting tobacco use in the previous 30 days went down from 26 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2012.
Also, more youth believe their peers will disapprove of using both alcohol and tobacco. This is important given that some research says that youth are most profoundly influenced by peers have, even more so than parents.
An alarming revelation is that the indicators for marijuana use among youth are going up. Based on the youth survey data gathered in the CTC, marijuana use has clearly emerged as a major problem among youth in Newberry County. The core measures all moved in an unhealthy direction from 2010 to 2012. More youth had reported using marijuana in the past 30 days with nearly 17 percent saying they had used. One-third of the county’s youth felt that using regularly posed no risk or only a slight risk. Fewer youth perceived that their parents and their peers felt that using marijuana was wrong or very wrong. Furthermore, nearly 30 percent of youth reported that they had used marijuana by age 12 or younger. Fifty-four percent reported that the drug was very easy or sort of easy to get in the community, and nearly 17 percent said they intended to use as adults.
So what is a parent to do when the influences that push children toward marijuana use are growing?
Communication is the key. Research shows that when parents talk openly about drugs and drinking, children have better self-control and develop more negative perceptions of these risky behaviors.
Tell your child or children how you feel and what you expect. Be warm but firm. For example, you might say:
“I’m not trying to ruin your fun. I love you and I want you to stay healthy. The best way to do that is to stay completely away from drugs and alcohol. I need you to promise that you will.”
“I realize there’s a lot of temptation out there. I also know you’re a really smart, strong person. That’s why I expect you to stay clean — no matter what your friends are doing. Agreed?”
“There’s a lot of new science about teens, drugs and alcohol. It scares me to know how easily you could damage your brain or get addicted. I want your word that you’ll steer clear of all that, and keep me in the loop on the kids you hang out with, too.”
But be ready to talk about experiences you had with alcohol and drug use when you were a teen. Believe me, your teen is interested in what you were like at his or her age. Even if you weren’t exactly an angel, talking with your son or daughter about what the drug and alcohol environment was like when you were young can only help when it comes to building trust and respect between you. If you never took a drink or smoked a joint, not even once, think about why you didn’t. What can you share with your son or daughter that helped you stay away from drugs when you were a teen?
Be real, and don’t preach. The more honest you are with yourself about your own life history, the more powerful an impact this kind of sharing will have on your teen.