Posts

By Grace Wilson, MSW – June 3, 2021 – 

In a world that is constantly on the go and filling our family’s schedules with various activities, it is important that we take time to slow down and spend quality one-on-one time with our children.  

If you have multiple children, take time to spend individual time with each one. Our attention is so often divided between many different tasks, relationships, and worries that we often forget to give devoted time to each child.  

Simply carving out even 10-15 minutes a day to spend with your child will transform your relationship. This works for children of all ages, but the sooner you start implementing this time together, the more easily it will become a part of everyday life.  

Create a list of activities to do together. Some ideas include going on a walk in your neighborhood or local park, painting pictures, baking a treat, playing board games, or reading a book together.  

When you are spending time with your child, all phones and other distractions should be put away. It is important that this time spent together is child driven. You should let them choose the activity and engage in it with them. Let them “run the show” as long as it is something you can feasibly do. 

This one-on-one time is beneficial for the long term mental health of both parent and child. Building strong personal bonds from a young age will enrich a child’s life in the following ways. 

1.     One-on-one time builds confidence and self-esteem. When your child has additional opportunities to express themselves within a loving environment, their confidence increases. Take this time to encourage creativity, imagination, and other positive traits you see in your child. 

2.     Your child will be more apt to open up to you. Extra time spent together gives your child the chance to communicate with you about their thoughts and emotions, good and bad. 

3.     Children will learn to develop positive habits. Kids are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol when they have open and positive relationships with parents and caregivers. Forming healthy bonds at home can also boost academic performance and engagement at school.  

Although our lives often seem hectic in the moment, the rewards of spending quality time with your children will last for years to come. These times together will feel like a special treat and provide perfect opportunities to build lasting traditions and create memories together.  

By Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator – March 17, 2021 –

I’m sure by now most parents are aware of the trendy and flavorful activity of “vaping,” but have you been able to speak with your kids about the dangers of e-cigarette (vape) products?

In order to have a productive conversation with your child about vaping, it is important that you know the facts first. While you should also do your own research, here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:

  1. E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. E-cigarettes do not produce a harmless water vapor like many believe to be the case. This aerosol contains chemicals such as nicotine (found in most vape products), formaldehyde, and acetone. This aerosol can also affect bystanders, similar to second-hand smoke from traditional cigarettes.
  1. One of the most popular vape products is JUUL. All JUUL products contain nicotine. People have since turned the word “JUUL” into an action verb, so you may have heard the term “JUUL-ing.”
  2. There are many juice flavors people can use in their e-cigarettes, and unfortunately, they are often targeted towards kids. Flavors such as bubblegum, tropical punch, grape, strawberry, and thousands of other enticing flavors are advertised. These flavors also contain chemicals that can be harmful to the lungs when inhaled.
  3. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain—which continues to develop until about the age of 25.

So how do you talk to your kids about vaping? If you follow a few simple suggestions, you can set yourself up for a meaningful and fairly easy conversation with your child.

First, as stated above, know your facts. Do your own research and understand the harmful effects of vaping before you begin. If at any time your child asks a question you do not know the answer to, be honest in your response and suggest that you research the answer together.

Find the right time to have the conversation. A more natural conversation will increase the likelihood that your child will listen. If you observe someone using e-cigarettes, see an advertisement or pass a vape shop, these situations would be a good conversation starter. The words “we need to talk” can be off-putting to a child, and they may not want to engage.

Avoid criticism and judgement, and encourage an open dialogue rather than a lecture. If your child is curious about vaping, discloses that they have tried it or have friends that vape, being critical may shut your child down and they will no longer want to talk.

It is okay to break up the conversation into smaller doses. Try to keep the conversation open. This is not a “one and done” type of conversation. If you learn something new after you have had a conversation, bring it to your child’s attention and talk about it together.

Most importantly, ask for support if you need it or have concerns that your child is vaping. Talk with your health care provider about the risks of e-cigarettes. You can also encourage your child to talk with other trusted adults to reinforce your message.

To learn more about the best strategies to address the risks of vaping with your child, check out Youth First’s video called “How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping” on our website:  https://youthfirstinc.org/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-vaping-3/ 

By Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator – October 28, 2020-

The conversation around marijuana is a hot topic in our society these days.  Most folks seem to choose one side or the other and not many fall in the middle.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana is the most used illegal drug in the United States with 36.7 million users (youth and adult) in 2018. This number is alarming because not everyone is aware of the physical and mental health risks, especially for our youth.

In a 2014 study, it was reported by Lancet Psychiatry that teens who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school or college than those who never use. They were also seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

A human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. When marijuana use is started at an early age, there will be damaging effects to the long term cognitive abilities of that individual.

Marijuana has many damaging effects on the brain. It can affect the parts of your brain responsible for memory, learning, decision making, emotions, reaction times, and attention. These effects could look different in each person. Different factors can come into play, including the potency of the marijuana, how often it is used, if other substances were used along with it, and at what age the individual began using marijuana.

Many people believe marijuana use can calm anxiety and relax an individual, but frequent and heavy use can actually bring on more feelings of anxiety or paranoia.

What are some of the other risks of using marijuana? First, marijuana is addictive. According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. That number rises to 1 in 6 if they began using before the age of 18.

Some signs of addiction can include unsuccessful efforts to quit using, giving up activities with friends or family because of marijuana, and continuing to use even though it has caused problems with work, school, and home.

Marijuana also elevates the heart rate, causing it to work even harder. This is especially the case if other substances are used along with marijuana. It can also cause respiratory problems, including chronic cough. While marijuana use has not been found as a direct link to cancer, many marijuana smokers also use cigarettes, which do cause cancer.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 71 percent of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana use as being harmful, but 64.7 percent say they disapprove of regular marijuana use. Now is the time to start the conversation with your child around marijuana.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Do your research on the topic and know how marijuana will affect your child’s health.
  2. Find a comfortable setting to have the conversation.
  3. Keep an open mind. Your child will be less receptive if they feel judged.
  4. Stay positive and don’t use scare tactics, as they are counter-productive.
  5. Don’t lecture; keep the conversation flowing freely between the two of you.

Stay involved in your children’s lives by keeping the conversation open, and let them know they can come to you without fear or judgment. This can make a world of difference when having a discussion with them about marijuana.

This column is written by Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator for Youth First, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 64 Master’s level social workers to 90 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year have access to Youth First’s school social work and afterschool programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success.

By Grace Wilson – May 12, 2020 –

Have you talked with your kids about the dangers of underage drinking? It can certainly be a difficult topic to navigate.

You may ask yourself all sorts of questions: When is the right time to have the conversation? How will it go? Will they think I’m accusing them of drinking alcohol? And here’s the big question: Will they even listen?

The truth is, our kids are hearing us whether they show us active listening skills or not.

Right now many of us are staying home and spending more time with our families during the pandemic. Parents have more opportunities to have a conversation about underage drinking with their kids. 

“Talk. They Hear You.” is an underage drinking prevention campaign developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Approximately 88,000 Americans die from an alcohol-attributed cause each year. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

The goal of this campaign is to provide parents and caregivers with the resources to discuss the hard topics such as underage drinking and substance misuse. As parents, we play a very significant role in whether or not our children will experiment with drugs and alcohol. If we are equipped with the resources to tackle these tough conversations, we are helping set our children up to be drug and alcohol free.

Even if you have young children, it is never too early to start the conversation around alcohol and other substances. Simple, short conversations, not one that is long and drawn out, can be very helpful in keeping your child engaged and not tuning you out.

Remember, a conversation goes both ways, so make sure to give your child a chance to talk as well. These little talks can happen in the car, while watching TV, or at dinner. You should keep these conversations going as your child moves through the stages of adolescence and adapt the conversation to your child’s age. A conversation at the age of 8 will and should be different than when they are 16. It is also important to clearly state your rules and expectations around alcohol and other substances during these talks.

You can find more information about “Talk. They Hear You.” on the Youth First website at youthfirstinc.org. You will find information about the campaign, tips on having the conversation, different messages and ads about “Talk. They Hear You.”, and a link to the SAMSHA website for even more resources. It is important to take time and research the facts before you start talking with your child about substance use. In doing this, you will be better prepared for any questions they may ask.

Make the most of this time at home with your children and start the conversation about underage drinking.  

By Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator – Oct. 15, 2019

The conversation around marijuana is a hot topic in our society these days.  Most folks seem to choose one side or the other and not many fall in the middle.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana is the most used illegal drug in the United States with 36.7 million users (youth and adult) in the past year. This number is alarming because not everyone is aware of the physical and mental health risks, especially for our youth.

In a 2014 study, it was reported by Lancet Psychiatry that teens who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school or college than those who never use. They were also seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

A human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. When marijuana use is started at an early age, there will be damaging effects to the long term cognitive abilities of that individual.

Marijuana has many damaging effects on the brain. It can affect the parts of your brain responsible for memory, learning, decision making, emotions, reaction times, and attention. These effects could look different in each person. Different factors can come into play, including the potency of the marijuana, how often it is used, if other substances were used along with it, and at what age the individual began using marijuana.

Many people believe marijuana use can calm anxiety and relax an individual, but frequent and heavy use can actually bring on more feelings of anxiety or paranoia.

What are some of the other risks of using marijuana?  First, marijuana is addictive.  According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. That number rises to 1 in 6 if they began using before the age of 18.

Some signs of addiction can include unsuccessful efforts to quit using, giving up activities with friends or family because of marijuana, and continuing to use even though it has caused problems with work, school, and home.

Marijuana also elevates the heart rate, causing it to work even harder. This is especially the case if other substances are used along with marijuana. It can also cause respiratory problems, including chronic cough. While marijuana use has not been found as a direct link to cancer, many marijuana smokers also use cigarettes, which do cause cancer.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 71 percent of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana use as being harmful, but 64.7 percent say they disapprove of regular marijuana use. Now is the time to start the conversation with your child around marijuana.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Do your research on the topic and know how marijuana will affect your child’s health.
  2. Find a comfortable setting to have the conversation.
  3. Keep an open mind. Your child will be less receptive if they feel judged.
  4. Stay positive and don’t use scare tactics, as they are counter-productive.
  5. Don’t lecture; keep the conversation flowing freely between the two of you.

Stay involved in your children’s lives by keeping the conversation open, and let them know they can come to you without fear or judgment. This can make a world of difference when having a discussion with them about marijuana.