Talk to your kids

It’s summer vacation for many students. Schools and libraries around the county invite students to “join us for lunch” or for a snack. But there are periods of time when your children are on their own, running with their friends with less supervision. In spite of the strong influence of peer pressure, and though you may not think so, your children are listening to what you say, watching what you do and learning from you how to be when they grow up. Your job as a parent is the most important job you will ever do.

“Parents are the most important source in preventing teen substance abuse, including smoking,” wrote Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, in Raising Kids Who Don’t Smoke, a youth smoking prevention campaign by Philip Morris USA. Kutner cited research on child development that “has repeatedly shown that parents are the number one influence on their children’s lives” and that parents “can significantly reduce the odds that your child will smoke, drink alcohol, use other drugs and engage in premature and unsafe sex.”

Smoking is associated with other risky behaviors and health dangers from those risky behaviors. It’s not just a rebellious thing kids do. It is a public health concern because secondhand smoke is harmful to the people around them who do not smoke. The younger they are when they begin to smoke, the more the organs in their bodies are affected. The brain is still developing and is changed by nicotine. The short term risks for teens are addiction, increased susceptibility to respiratory illness and shortness of breath. Lung growth and function are impaired.

For Philip Morris USA, a tobacco company, to state that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and most of those lung cancer cases are caused by smoking speaks volumes. Smoking, the company said, is a major cause of heart disease, emphysema, stroke and increases in the risks of oral cancer and gum disease. More Americans die from tobacco-related illness than from alcohol, car accidents, HIV/AIDS, firearms and illegal drugs combined.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, states that smoking tobacco is a gateway to other substance abuse disorders.

Is your child at risk of smoking?

Does your child hang out with other kids who smoke cigarettes? Do you or your spouse smoke? Do older siblings smoke? Is your child having trouble in school? Is your child depressed? Is your child an adolescent? Does your child have a lot of unsupervised time after school?

There was a time when children knew to be home and at the dinner table at 6 p.m. without fail. The family sat down together to share the evening meal and talk about the events that occurred during their day. They discussed current events and how those things might affect their lives, even in a small town that no outsiders had ever heard of.

This is a good time to renew the efforts for having supper together, taking time out from everything else to spend it with your family, building trust, building firm relationships and sharing your beliefs, knowledge and values that will see your children through the rest of their lives. Your children need to understand your values and beliefs and see you live those things. Your children need to understand that everyone is notsmoking, using drugs or drinking alcohol. They also should understand that just because someone you know makes a bad choice doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing. Be a leader, not a follower. Set rules for your children with consequences for their actions, and follow through with them.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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