Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just Say Maybe? (part 1)

It's hard to miss the commercials on TV these days, imploring parents to "talk to their kids" about alcohol, drugs, smoking, what-have-you. Just talking to kids, according to these ads, helps to protect kids from whatever terrible behavior "they" are trying to prevent.

As someone who works in the social sciences, I have given quite a bit of thought to the issue of alcohol and drugs, and what is the best way to promote responsible behavior without a) scaring the bejesus out of my kid b) seeming so unrealistic that my kid will just tune out. I strongly disagree with "Just Say No," but I don't want to "just say yes" either. I want to teach my son moderation, if that is at all possible.

I recently picked up a brochure from our local library that is supposed to help parents talk to their kids about drinking. As this pamphlet would have it, parents would "firmly" tell their child that they are not to drink under any circumstances, and these are the reasons why, and this is what will happen if you do, yada yada yada. I found this pamphlet to be annoying, but I couldn't exactly put my finger on what bothered me.

Then I received my bi-monthly copy of Brain, Child Magazine, and there was an article about this very topic! This article, Scared Straight? Or Just Scared? Do elementary school anti-drug campaigns work?by Juliette Guilbert, is a really interesting read. I completely agree with her analysis of the situation:

But all too often, these anti-drug programs seem to put parents in an impossible position: We must either agree with pronouncements and propaganda we know to be false or exaggerated, or we must engage our children in awkward conversations about complex subjects they are too young to understand. And while it's a simple matter to get kids under ten to accept black-and-white pronouncements like "Drugs kill you" or "Don't tell lies" or "Beauty is only skin deep," I wondered what would happen when they hit middle school, and the costumes and handprints are forgotten or despised as relics of childhood. And what happens the first time they meet someone who admits to having tried pot and is, miraculously, still alive?

There has to be a better way.

One group I heard about recently that is trying a "new way" is called Choose Responsibility. They were started by a former college president (which, in my opinion, gives them a hell of a lot of credibility), and their view is that young adults who are under age 21 should be able to drink IF they go through a required educational program and receive a drinking license similar to a driver's license. The idea is to promote responsible drinking and reduce dangerous binge drinking. I actually wrote a letter to the Boston Globe last year about this group, which was printed. Here is the link .

So this is the first part of this "story." I actually started this post on 6/8/07, and am just getting around to completing it today. More on the reason why I'm getting back to it on my next post...

No comments: