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How Develop Street Smart Kids

How Develop Street Smart Kids

By Dr. June Stride View more articles

Get Real

Michelle grabbed her gym bag from the floor and was about ready to dash off to the gym when her mom stopped her at the door.

"Michelle, don't be in such a rush, I have a couple of quick questions for you. Did you eat breakfast today? And, what about dinner last night? You weren't home when we ate," Mrs. Lewis queried.

"Mom, you know I hate breakfast. I can't eat that early. Last night a bunch of us got together and we got so involved with the game that I totally forgot to eat. You know how it is!"

"No, I don't Michelle. You have dropped almost 20 pounds this year. At your height you should be 120 pounds or so. I bet you don't weigh 100. I'm really worried."

"Don't be, mom. I'm fine, really, I am. Look at me. Don't make a big deal out of it, just because one day I forgot to eat."

"Just because you forgot to eat for one day! Why am I worried? Here's why. People don't lose 20 pounds because they don't eat for a day. Michelle, let's get real, I found those diet pills. They must have dropped out of your purse when you put it on the table. Forget the gym, we've got to do some serious talking"

The quick fix. Instant results. Isn't that what most of us want? We don't want to wait for anything, whether it is a meal out, a phone call, a new shirt, a computer program or a new look. Instant gratification is the media hype and we buy into it. Forget long term planning, most of us go for the short term answer. Why should our kids be any different?

Dangerous Messages

Michelle's  ˜weight loss program" is a good example. Pop a pill, lose your appetite and lose weight. Having trouble sleeping, pop a pill. Depressed or out of sorts, take an anti-depressant. Want to have a good time, have a drink. Got a sore throat, take a pill. You get the idea! Can we expect that all of our discomforts and problems have an easy fix solution? Is the message: There is no need to put up with the inconvenience of sickness, boredom, obesity etc.? Are our kids getting the healthy, positive messages we want them to get?

Parents today continue to have that "at home" challenge of setting a good example; that is nothing new. However, that challenge is now combined with the need to help our kids become ˜street smart" so that they can resist the risky behaviors they face in school and in the neighborhood. The magnitude and variety of risk is new, as is the potential for succumbing to abusive behaviors. Here are some serious dilemmas that many of our kids have to manage: more free time, less supervision; more available money, less daily structure; more powerful drugs, less self-discipline; more need to make wise decisions, less preparation in decision making. The truth is drugs offer all an equal opportunity to abuse. Our kids face enormous temptations. Succumbing early to such temptations as alcohol and drugs could result in long-term addiction and potentially dangerous/deadly consequences.

Drug abuse and tarnished dreams

Hey, none of us are bona fide experts on keeping our kids safe, drug free and relatively content with their lot in life until they reach adulthood. We do what we can, the best we can, in whatever situation we find ourselves. Sometimes that isn't good enough. Even those parents that we most admire as excellent role models for us, as well as for their own kids, sometimes get sideswiped with drug abuse problems. Peggy G. is an example of just that. One phone call changed her life. She was devastated when the police called telling her that their son, Jeffery had been arrested for breaking and entering while under the influence. That phone message was the beginning of what continues to be hell for Jeffery. His life has spiraled into a heavy-duty cocaine addiction. He has resided in nine jails and/or institutions, and, at 21, is still lacking a legitimate, marketable job skill as well as a high school diploma. As for Peggy, she will be the first to admit that her own mental and physical health has been compromised, her relationship with her husband has deteriorated. Life in her once pleasant community has changed so much and her dreams have greatly tarnished.

10 TIPS: Developing Street Smart Kids
Building strong, resistant street-smart kids is a project best started as early as possible. Some of the pointers below may sound too general to help in preparing our children, but sometimes the most important messages are the simplest.

1. Start as early as possible being the best possible role model for your child. That means consider what you say, how you say it and what you mean. It also means considering what you do, how you do it and the message your child is getting from it. Make your values known and live by them.

2. Listen actively to your child. Use the 5 B's to help you: Be there. Be open. Be concerned. Be alert. Be informed.

3. Share moments and experiences. Build a bond. Do not be afraid of admitting your failures while you were growing up, especially if you can share how you overcame difficulties, faced problems and found solutions. Make certain that your child is in a safe, supervised environment at all times.

4. Show interest in your child: his/her dreams, wishes, plans, fears, friends, fun, school progress and activities.

5. Do things together as a family promoting ˜togetherness" and work ethics. Involve your child in making choices and decisions about how to have fun, spend time and money.

6. Develop your child's sense of responsibility. Give him/her chores. Make him/her feel an important part of your family through participation and carrying out responsiblities. Expect that he/she will be reliable and timely in the completion of chores. Better yet, have him/her help you develop a list of essential daily/weekly chores and have family members select their own responsibilities. Give guidance where necessary. Build in accountability.

7. Be accepting of mistakes. Consider them learning experiences. Allow your child to grow by accepting the consequences for his/her mistakes. Too often we enable our kids by protecting them from mistakes or removing the consequences. How will they become responsible for their actions or inactions if there are no consequences?

8. Love them unconditionally. Show your love. You may clearly express displeasure with behaviors but make sure that he/she understands that you are not withholding love as a result of your displeasure and/or discipline.

9. Find and use an inviting and engaging substance abuse prevention guide to share with your growing child. Give plenty of opportunities for your child to practice speaking out, practice refusing, analyzing risky situations and suggesting options for avoidance of drug abuse.

10. Make your position on drugs CLEARLY known. Consider signing a SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) Contract with your child. Such a contract clearly and simply outlines how young people will strive to make healthful decisions regarding alcohol and drug abuse. Moreover, the contract states that the parents commit to listen and communicate about destructive decisions. Additionally, parents will promise to provide safe transportation home, and defer discussion until both child and parent can discuss the matter calmly and in a caring manner.

Most of all, if you suspect that your child has a substance abuse problem, it may well be true. Seek help. Your immediate action may be needed. The earlier that intervention is available, the better for your child. Finally, remember to get help for yourself so that you can continue in the role of loving and responsible parent.