For many parents having their child return to school feels more significant this fall, with many schools opening for in-person learning following COVID-19 related closures or disruptions over the past 18 months. And while schools adapted to bring students back into the school building, parents and students had to navigate the challenges and emotions that accompany this transition.
As a parent, you may still be helping your child to process their feelings and concerns as they adjust to being back in school. By keeping the lines of communication open and giving them a safe space to share how they feel and ask any questions they may have, you will give your child the support they need to adjust to their new routine and thrive in the school environment throughout the year. SAMHSA has resources available to help parents, teachers, and schools navigate the transition back to the classroom.
Regular and open conversations with your child are beneficial any time of year and are an opportunity to address a variety of important issues. The month of October is recognized as National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month and is an opportunity to join a broader effort to reduce substance use among our Nation’s youth. As a parent you can make a real difference by talking with your child about these issues and keeping the lines of communication open for continued conversations. Although it may not always seem like it, children do hear the concerns of their parents and other adult role models, which is why it’s so important to discuss early and often the risks of using alcohol and other drugs.
SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign recently launched a new mobile app that helps parents and caregivers prepare for some of the most important conversations they may ever have with their kids- conversations about alcohol and other drugs. The app shows parents and caregivers how to turn everyday situations into opportunities to talk with their children, and equips them with the necessary skills, confidence, and knowledge to start and continue these conversations as their kids get older. There is even a feature within the app where you can practice having the conversations, so you feel more comfortable when the time comes.
While alcohol and other drug use may not be your top-of-the-mind issues right now, there is no better time than this month to start having these talks with your kids. In fact, a recent NIH-funded study found that the overall rate of drug use among 10-14 year-olds remained relatively stable during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The study also found that teens experiencing pandemic-related stress, depression, or anxiety, or hardship during the pandemic, were more likely to use alcohol or drugs.
The study also found that youth stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were all positively associated with the use of any substance, and that several pandemic-related factors increased adolescents’ likelihood of substance use. For example, youth who reported feeling “extreme” stress from the uncertainty associated with the pandemic were 2.4 times more likely to use any substance than youth who reported “very slight” stress.
It’s normal to have some anxiety of your own this time of year, and maybe you feel like you don’t always know the right thing to say to your child about alcohol and other drug use. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone! Check out these resources to help adults start—and keep up—the conversation about the dangers of drinking alcohol and using other drugs at a young age: