The Project SAFE School Program brings life-skills, vital awareness and important discussion to 5th-12th graders throughout the school year. In this article, SAFE teachers offer advice to parents on how they can best keep their teens safe this summer.
Q. SAFE teachers, what advice can you offer parents to help keep their children out of harm’s way this summer?
Shira Berkowitz, LMSW, Former SAFE teacher and current Director of Development for The Project SAFE School Program:
“Everyone wants to be loved, and people do all kinds of dangerous and inappropriate things when they feel empty inside. When a child gets the proper amount of attention, support and recognition of his strengths rather than for his faults, he or she will feel satisfied and strong. This child will have a positive self-esteem and can say no to peer pressure. In addition, if parents model healthy coping skills and show that they can enjoy and relax without relying on substances, kids will follow.”
Chedvi Perr, LSCW, SAFE teacher/girls: “Parents may turn a blind eye and allow their kids to go to parties filled with alcohol and drugs, but are then horrified if something bad actually happens. We cannot put our kids in situations where they will surely be led to drink and then be disappointed that they do. Often, teens cannot set appropriate limits for themselves, because they are being pressured by their friends. When a parent forbids a child from being in an unhealthy atmosphere, the teen can blame the parent for not being able to go. Even if the protest is strong, the teen is grateful to have clear boundaries.”
Eli Amzalag, SAFE teacher/boys:“Unfortunately, teenagers see some of the adults in their lives engaging in questionable activity. This speaks volumes. Teens also realize that parents can be quickly pacified with mild retorts (it was my cousin’s wedding/party!) and get away with it. This response, albeit not deliberately or consciously, can nurture bad habits.”
Yossi Sirote, LMSW, former SAFE teacher and current Director of the Project SAFE School Program: “It is important for parents to open a dialogue with their children. Teenagers are not kids anymore. When they are approached as adults, they are more responsive. One thing to discuss is how the teenage brain is still developing, and drinking alcohol excessively will damage vulnerable brain cells. Teens are also not in a stage where their emotional skills are strong. Because of this, drinking and drug use will have dangerous repercussions. Parents should make it very clear how they feel about drug and alcohol use.”
Avi Smus, TCI, SAFE teacher/boys: “Kids can be very innocent and unsuspecting. They do not recognize that others want to make a quick buck off of them, no matter what the cost. But our children are the most precious things to us, and if they are looking for attention, we must recognize it. Being involved and providing constant love and non-judgmental support is crucial.”
Penina Ginsberg, SAFE teacher/girls: “As the years progress, the youth gets desensitized. What was once unacceptable has become the norm and unfortunately, reality. Parents should be aware of what’s going on with their children and keep the lines of communication open. Get to them before the media and the American culture takes hold.”
Visit the website Partnership for a Drug-Free America
Drugproof Kids: The Ultimate Prevention Handbook for Parents to Protect Children from Addictions by Jr., Frank Simonelli