Pubdate: Sun, 18 Oct 2009
Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI)
Copyright: 2009 Green Bay Press-Gazette
Author: Patrick Ryan, Guest commentary
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


As a parent, you should be aware of what your high-school-age kids are
doing during the lunch hour.

Typically, open campus lunch allows students to leave school property,
if they would like during the lunch period. Schools usually offer this
option because of limited cafeteria space and because many students
live close enough to head home for lunch.

However, situational awareness is important. All too often, time away
from school is time that can include opportunities to use drugs and
alcohol. Teens who are in treatment programs reveal that drug and
alcohol use and other risky behaviors happen away from school during
the lunch hour.

As program director at Libertas Treatment Center in Green Bay, each
day at work is a reminder of the devastating impact that alcohol and
drug addictions can have on young people and their families and friends.

I've said this many times, but it bears repeating: Studies have shown
that teens who begin drinking at 15 are at least four times more
likely to become alcoholics than those who wait until age 21.
Wisconsin adolescents are just as much at risk for developing an
addiction as any other teen in our country.

A survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration estimates that 8.7 percent of adolescents in Wisconsin
are in need of substance abuse treatment. This translates to more than
1,000 teens in Brown County alone. These statistics hammer home the
importance of talking with our teens about ways they can avoid
pressures to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Parents must be aware of where their high school age kids are spending
the lunch hour. Are they getting a nourishing lunch? What else are
they doing? Is it at school; is it a local fast-food restaurant, at
the home of a friend?

If at the home of a friend, ensure that there is parental supervision
there and confirm that with the parent. If this activity rotates among
homes, be sure there is adult supervision at each. It is also a good
idea to introduce yourself to the parents of all the lunch companions
so that whereabouts can be coordinated.

Don't be afraid to occasionally show up to confirm the story. If their
plans happen to change for the lunch hour, be sure they communicate
those changes with you. If attendance or performance in after-lunch
classes is declining, an examination of the lunch hour and activities
is certainly indicated.

Parents know they can't be with their teenagers every moment or
protect them from all pressures to abuse drugs and alcohol. But
talking to them about the dangers and knowing their whereabouts can
hopefully minimize the risk.

Remember to watch for warning signs of drinking or drug use --
deteriorating grades, skipping school, changes in energy levels, sleep
patterns, appetite and hygiene, a persistent surly attitude, a change
to a negative peer group, or disrespect or unwillingness to follow
rules or family structure.

Let's strive to put a focus on helping our teens make the right
decision when it comes to alcohol or drug use this school year and
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D