Community can prepare kids to say no
Last week, shocking reports surfaced after an upset mother tweeted that her 10-year-old son had been offered drugs while on school property at Central Elementary School.
Later, in an interview with the Herald, Kerstin Auer said that while it was disturbing to think that someone had offered drugs to her young son, she was happy that she had prepared him to say no, in such a situation.
“You can’t always protect your kids, so you might as well prepare them,” she said.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to become a mother, but I am the oldest of five children. My baby brother (whose birth I was present for) recently turned nine and I reckon I’d be just as protective of him if he were my own son. I can’t imagine the fury I would feel if I found out that some pothead had offered him drugs, but then, I’d like to think that he has been taught sufficiently to say no.
My siblings and I grew up in a home where, for religious reasons, we followed a strict health code. This meant that from when we were young there was an open discussion in our home about what was good to put into our bodies and what things we should avoid, including alcohol, tobacco and of course, drugs.
Because of these conversations, which were reinforced at church and school, I had already made the decision to steer clear of these substances by the time anyone offered them to me.
While parents have the primary responsibility to teach their children to make healthy, safe choices, unfortunately many children grow up in homes where these messages are not reinforced.
Search Institute has identified 40 Developmental Assets, which are experiences and influences that help young people become responsible and develop resiliency to avoid risky behaviour. While the list includes things like family support and family boundaries, it is not limited to influences from within the home. For example, other adult relationships, a caring neighbourhood and a caring school climate can also influence children to develop the knowledge and courage to turn down drugs if and when the offer comes.
It’s a pity that drugs are bought and sold in our community. It’s a pity that drugs are available to high school students, middle school students and, apparently, elementary school students. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we may not be able to eradicate the disease of addiction and the availability of the substances that cause it.
We can, however, have open discussions with the youth as parents, siblings, teachers, friends and neighbours so they will be prepared to make the right choices.