Not My Kid – Information for Educators, Parents and Students
Common themes present at all ages
- A clear, consistent message that the use of alcohol, tobacco and other illicit drugs is unhealthy and harmful
- A no use message must be clearly communicated
- Knowledge of all types of drugs, including prescription medications, why they are used, and who should (or should not) administer them
- The social consequences of substance abuse
- Respect for the laws and values of society
- Information concerning responsible adults to turn to if substance use turns into abuse and/or addiction. Assure youth that self-referral will be treated in confidence, and will not result in punishment.
A word of caution…
Caution should be used concerning one prevalent drug-education technique: Former addicts and pushers should not be used as speakers in youth prevention education settings. Personal testimony can be powerful among adults; however, children often get a different message—that the speaker once used drugs for a time and survived, or even became wealthy and famous. Using such persons as role models may be effective in counseling high-risk students who are recovering users, but not for drug education programs aimed at the broader spectrum of youth.
Activities that engage youth in group discussions of personal drug experiences are not wise. An admission of use from a young leader may create conflict and uncertainty in the non-using individual.
Maintaining adult authority in prevention settings is critical. Real damage can be done when educators reveal their own past indiscretions. Honest dialog is important; however, an adult has the ability to respond in such a way to divert attention away from direct admissions of use or non-use. According to Bill Oliver, creator of Parent-to-Parent, a self-disclosure in either direction could jeopardize credibility. One response might go as follows, “When I was your age, I did a lot of irresponsible things. Did you know that my generation did not wear seat belts or safety helmets? We also did not know about the dangers of drugs. In fact, the drugs of today are much more potent and harmful than when I was growing up. I’m going to do everything possible to make sure you are better informed than I was so you can make healthy, responsible decisions.”
Beware of prevention curricula that has only minimal material on substance abuse and is mainly a social skills or self-esteem package. Effective prevention curriculum includes appropriate lessons in resistance, life skills training, and problem solving skills; however, that is not its only component.