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    Well, it is that time of year again...spring is in the air and we are all counting down the days till summer break. For many parents, this is also the time of year when our children are planning proms and graduation parties. We at Prevention First want to remind you to make this a safe and sober time for your children and communities.


    Young people are bombarded with messages about alcohol every day. Unfortunately, many of these messages are not reality based. The reality is that underage drinking can lead to car crashes, drowning, personal injury accidents, unplanned pregnancies and school failure. Did you know that problems and costs associated with underage drinking in New Jersey alone totals close to $1.5 billion?!


    The messages parents send to children about alcohol are crucial. Many parents allow their teenage children to drink alcohol at home in an effort to teach them how to drink responsibly. They may have good intentions, but the results can be deadly. What parents do, in fact, is facilitate their child's comfort with alcohol by sending a dangerous mixed message. Too many adults think underage drinking is harmless or worse - acceptable if parents take car keys away from youth. Every year we hear about teens dying from alcohol poisoning or alcohol related poisonings and drowning that occur after adults provide alcohol to youth. Nobody has the right to endanger the welfare of someone else's child by providing them with alcohol.


    Individuals who purchase, provide or pour alcohol for anyone under age 21, except their own child, is breaking the law and can be charged under state or municipal law. Underage drinking is illegal, has long term health consequences and is a factor in all five of the leading causes of death among youth. We want this to be a happy prom and commencement season; underage drinking isn't part of that picture.


    So please make time to talk to your children and set clear boundaries. Surveys show that parents have a tremendous impact and influence on their children's decisions about drinking.   It is imperative that parents are aware of the risks posed to their children, most especially at this festive time of year. Proms, graduation and the parties that follow make this a perfect time to talk to your child about alcohol and to set up some prevention strategies.


    Make a Safety Plan- Talk to your teen about not drinking and driving and not being a passenger in unsafe circumstances. Who will they call if they need a ride? Role play some scenarios until you are sure they will not be pressured to take any unnecessary risks.


    Hiring a Limo-Don't leave the hiring to your teen. Make the arrangements yourself, and make it clear that the driver is to make no stops other than those you've pre-authorized. Ask what measures the driver takes to prevent the limousine from becoming a place for children to drink.


    Renting Hotel Rooms-In general, hotels don't rent to minors and need a parent's involvement. A parent whose credit card is used is liable for damages, which can be considerable if a party gets out of hand. Don't let your child attend a hotel party unless you know and trust the chaperones.


    Throwing a party at Home- Make it clear that you won't allow gate-crashers. Get advance agreement with your teen on the party rules. Greet guests at the door. Your teen will want you to keep a low profile, but it is responsible to circulate. Check your yard periodically. Do not serve alcohol.


    If the party is at Someone Else's House-Call the host parent in advance to find out the ground rules. Find out when the party will end and who will be chaperoning. If your child has more than one party invitation on prom night, it's safest to have him/her pick one for the evening and not party-hop.


    Prevention First has a wide variety of information regarding the dangers of underage drinking, the legal consequences of hosting underage drinking in your home and how parents and other family members can host safe and fun alcohol-free events for youth. Call us at 732.663.1800 ext. 245 or visit our resource center for free information on this and many other related topics at 1405 Highway 35 North, Ocean Township or visit us online at PreventionFirst.net.

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    Mary Pat Angelini
    Executive Director & CEO
    Teens will be teens. They sleep late, fail a test here and there or get uncharacteristically moody. But what if these behaviors are happening more often than usual, or all at the same time? You know your teen better than anyone, but it is important to know what to look for if you suspect he or she may be abusing medicine.
    1. Health concerns. Keep an eye out for changes in your teen’s physical health, like constricted pupils, nausea or vomiting, flushed skin or dizziness. Look further into anything that seems strange.
    2. Changes in behavior. The signs of medicine abuse aren’t always physical. Look for changes in behavior – like sudden changes in relationships with their family or friends, anxiety, erratic mood swings or decreased motivation. It’s no secret that teens can be moody, but be on the lookout for drastic differences in the way your child behaves.
    3.  Home-related signs. If you’ve noticed belongings  disappearing around the house, or found some unusual objects appearing – like straws, burnt spoons, aluminum foil or medicine bottles – this could be a sign of medicine abuse. Count – and lock up – the medicine you have in your home and safely dispose of any expired medicine. 
    4. Trouble in school. Take note of how your teen is doing in school, including any change in homework habits and grades. A rapid drop in grades, loss of interest in schoolwork and complaints from teachers could be indicators that there’s a problem. 
    5. Things just seem off. You know your child better than anyone and you know when something’s not right. Trust your gut, and talk to your teen about your concerns. 
    With one in four kids reporting abuse of prescription drugs in their lifetime, it’s important to take action right away if you do suspect medicine abuse. Don’t be afraid to talk – and listen – to your teen, work through things together and get help if necessary.

    Parent Information from Prevention First  (A guide for tips on how to talk to your children)
    1. Start the Dialogue - if you know a milepost is coming up, talk to them about it, says Ron Arden, Life Navigator. Try saying:
    • You're about to start a new school. How are you doing about that? I know when I was your age and I went to a new school, it was a little scary.
    • We're moving out of this area, and youll be going to a new school. We're going to have to make new friends. I think thats a little scary. What are you feeling about it? What do you think it's going to be like for you?  
    Let them know that their anxieties are normal. Let them know that you understand it, and afterwards ask, How was it for you? Was it as bad as you thought? Oftentimes, I suggest parent give their child more information than they need, so that when they come home, they can say, You know, it really wasn't as bad as you made it out to be."

    2. Let Your Child Vent - Listen to your child. Try not to interrupt with your running commentary. If you're thrown off guard by something your child says, tell her youll get back to her. Then talk it through with a spouse or friend and when the time is right readdress the topic with your child.

    3. Ask Questions - My daughter Lauren never seems stressed about academics it appears to come easy to her. I mentioned this once, and was surprised to hear that it was not the case. She is stressed but she doesnt show stress like my other daughter. So, I learned the importance of checking in with my kids and probing a bit. Things are not often what they seem.

    4. Eliminate Some of the Surprise
     - My colleague Denise Young Farrell suggests pointing out details of what's to come. "My daughter will soon be starting at new program at our local public elementary. When we walk by the school I try to tell her something new about what it will be like. Whether it's what entrance she'll use or where she'll play with her new friends. Just trying to eliminate some of the surprises, as there are sure to be some that sneak up on us!"

    5. Help Them Get Organized - Michael Thompson, PhD, consultant, author, & psychologist, points out that middle school can be particularly challenging for boys. "Boys tend to be more to be more scattered. So that middle school is often a very upsetting transition for them because they cant keep track of their stuff...Moms and dads have to move in and help them with those kinds of organizational challenges in middle school."

    6. Attend Parent Night - For parents of high school and college kids, I recommend taking advantage of the schools parent orientations as well as any brochures, info sheets and web resources help prepare and educate parents about these transitions. Some of the information is just common sense, but you may learn something. Also, by attending, you're sending your children a powerful message that you are engaged and that this is indeed an important time for everyone. Whats key, I think, is finding the time to share with the child what you learned. You may get the roll of the eyes and Yea, yea, but its worth the effort, and its easy to do.

    7. Establish Guidelines - It's important to set up rules and guidelines anytime of the year but during times of transition it's essential. Know where they are, who they're with and what they're doing. If your child is heading to college, Vanessa Van Petten, author, consultant and youthologist suggests setting specific boundaries with your child around topics like money, grades and keeping in touch.

    8. Make Time to Connect - Parent Partner and mom Lorraine Popper suggests being supportive of your childs interests during times of transition. "If theyre into a certain type of music, get interested. Show that you care about their life. Spend a little more time together, do activities that they like to do. Steve Paseirb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, suggests scheduling family dinners or get-togethers every week and set it in stone just like sports practice. Use the time to catch up on whats going on in your kids life, including whats not going well. Stressed kids may feel isolated, which can lead to experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Let them know you love them too much to see them risk getting hurt by experimenting or using.

    9. Give Them Independence - I feel we should give our kids some autonomy so they dont feel as if we are suffocating them, says Tracey Jackson. Then all they want is to get as far from us as possible. My colleague Claire Kellys daughter is starting high school in Manhattan this fall. This summer Claire let her and her older sister take the subway together from Queens to Manhattan to begin getting her used to the commute. On two occasions, she took the train herself. That was hard for me, explains Claire. But my daughter was so excited and proud of herself, I knew allowing her that bit of independence was worth it.

    10. Be Aware of Red Flags - Be aware of any unusual behavior. Tessa Vining suggests asking yourself, "Are they isolating themselves? Are they locking themselves in the in their room and not letting you in? Are has their appearance changed? Are they looking a little bit more rundown? Do they seem a little bit more erratic in their mood? See warning signs and what you can do about it. See a list of warning signs of drug and alcohol use.
    And lastly, as your kids prepare to go back to school, you can help them sail through this transition (and many others to come) by simply letting them know that youre always there to for them.

    Source: "10 Tips for Surviving Back-To-School and Other Life Transitions." The Parent Toolkit Blog. The Partnership at DrugFree.org, 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 13 Aug. 2013.

    A recent survey by MTV showed that nearly half of teens named a parent as their hero.