• 63°

Don’t be a stranger to a child’s world

Editorial by Ashley R. McKelvey

Let’s take a stroll down “Memory Lane” to the years that many of us lived free and without bills to pay or worries. We dreaded waking up early for school but looked forward to innocent Friday night football games where we cheered our hearts out and bragged about our latest hallway crush. The internet as we know it today was just a twinkle in someone’s eye and cell phones weren’t permanent appendages. Our parents would call the parents of our best friends before weekend sleepovers to make sure that we would be properly supervised and Saturday dates to the movies were chaperoned by our older siblings. People knew the dangers of drugs and alcohol but we dare not speak on the topic because it was just that un-cool. Those were the days, right?

Unfortunately, the times are changing and as adults, it is up to us to ensure the safety of our youth. In the latest report, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that 2014 saw the highest number of drug and alcohol deaths in recent history. In fact, more than 43,000 people died from drug overdoses that year alone. Further, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that there are about 88,000 deaths yearly as a result of alcohol misuse. Teens are included in these figures and many people are left with the question of, “What can I do?”

At the Prevention Resource Center, we believe that the first step is open dialogue. Ask children open ended questions to encourage honest feedback. When “How are you doing” isn’t enough, follow up with “Tell me about your day”. You will likely hear something that will spark further communication. During this time, make sure that you’re fully present by putting away cell phones, speaking kind words, and making eye contact; Conversation really does rule the nation. If you hear something alarming, make sure to address it right then; later could be too late. Talk to children about who their friends are and what they think the definition of “cool” is. On a random occasion, ask your child to send you their favorite songs and make sure to listen for overt or hidden messages that might glorify dangerous habits. Again, when you hear things like this: take action, don’t wait. Overall, don’t be a stranger to a child’s world. When they open the door, you step in to be an all-present, positive part of their life.

If you or anyone you know are struggling with addiction, help and assistance are available. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council (ADAC) of Deep East Texas can be reached toll-free at 800-445-8512 in Lufkin. The Prevention Resource Center (PRC) provides the community with tobacco education, trainings, and data related to underage alcohol, prescription, and other drug abuse. The PRC can be reached toll-free at 844-772-3483.

Ashley R. McKelvey is Community Liaison, Prevention Resource Center with the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas.