Chemical health is key to growing up well

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

By Alice Englin, Guest Column

For parents.

As you know, your children are constantly watching and learning from you. Surveys of youth consistently show that you are the most influential factor in your children’s lives. Sure MTV, the Internet, movies, sports stars and their peers influence them to varying degrees, but none come close to the amount of influence you have through your words and actions. Raising children is a tough job.

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Knowing this, we invite you to join us in observing Minnesota Chemical Health Week, Nov. 11-17, 2012. During this week and throughout the year, our goal is for everyone to make healthy choices.

Because you make a difference, we encourage you to think about how to model positive behavior at home. Here are a few suggestions.

Alice Englin

Read all you can about the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Visit our local library or contact the Minnesota Prevention Resource Center (763-427-5310, 800-782-1878 or Sign up for the Freeborn County Partners in Prevention monthly e-newsletter. Spend some time on the Internet learning about alcohol and drug use. Attend meetings sponsored by schools, youth groups, community or faith-based organizations that provide useful information about the use of addictive and harmful chemicals. Learn all you can to help your child make healthy decisions. Knowledge is power.

Talk. Do not assume that your children know your position on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. Remind them, over and over, that it is not acceptable to use these substances. Let them know your rules and what will happen if they break them. Also let them know that contrary to popular belief, research continually finds that most youth do not drink alcohol, smoke or try other drugs. Listening is as important as talking. Parents who listen, rather than just lecture, will gain their children’s trust.

Walk the Talk. Remember that you are your child’s first and foremost role model. If you use alcohol, do it in moderation within legal and healthy guidelines. If you smoke or chew tobacco, attempt to quit for your own health and the health of others in your home. Follow all directions and health precautions in the use of prescription drugs, and never use illegal drugs.

Keep in touch. Learn about your children’s activities. Meet their friends. Get to know the friends’ parents. United parents have a powerful influence.

Offer alternatives. No one needs alcohol, tobacco or drugs to have fun and feel good. Teach your children about drug-free alternative activities — sports, museum visits, volunteer activities, etc. — and participate with them.

Invest your time. The time you spend with your children shows them your values. Spending time with them demonstrates to your children that you care about them and their lifestyle choices. During Minnesota Chemical Health Week and throughout the year let’s send consistent and frequent messages that reinforce and celebrate healthy choices, healthy lifestyles, and healthy futures for all children.

Alice Englin is the project coordinator for Freeborn County Partners in Prevention, working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth in Freeborn County. She can be reached at 377-5504 or