Help with 5 Tough Questions About Teens, Alcohol, and Drugs

With marijuana legalization legislation pending in the General Assembly, families may need to have more discussions about its use. While the proposed legislation would legalize marijuana for those over 21, Illinois PTA continues to follow the bill regarding parts that may affect those under 21, including drug education requirements, protections to prevent sales to those under 21, and expungement of criminal records of those convicted of possession.

Great Schools! published an article answering five tough questions about teens, alcohol, and drugs. While many parents know the basic facts to convey to their child about these issues, there are several nuances that parents may struggle with how to address:

  1. Does talking to my child about drugs or alcohol get them thinking about something they’re otherwise oblivious to?
  2. Should I offer a safe ride home no matter what?
  3. Should I share my own history?
  4. Should my kid learn about drinking at home?
  5. How can I tell if my kid is smoking pot?

The article answers each of these difficult questions with help from experts, and these are important discussions to have with your child. As Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) notes, one in five teens binge drink, but only one in 100 parents think it’s happening.

New Guide on Improving School Climate

We all want safe and supportive schools for our children, and a key part of providing that environment in s healthy school climate. Last month, the US Department of Education released a new guide to help parents and educators improve school climate.

The guide is designed as a series of Frequently Asked Questions about school climate, starting with what school climate is and moving on to how that climate is affected by student discipline and other factors and how schools can improve. Among the questions answered by the guide are:

  • What does the research show regarding positive school climate improvement efforts?
  • How does the use of “exclusionary” student discipline (e.g., out-of-school suspension) fit within school climate improvement?
  • What if my school has never attempted a school climate improvement effort? What if my school has already started a school climate improvement effort?
  • What interventions should be used as part of a school climate improvement effort?
  • What can I do to ensure my school climate improvement effort is sustainable over the long term?

The guide is written in straightforward language and explains any educational jargon as well. Also included are examples of best practices that have been successful in schools across the country. The guide concludes with an appendix listing other programs, guides, and resources to help improve school climate.

The National PTA School of Excellence programalso fits in well with efforts to improve school climate. You can sign your PTA and school up for the 2019-2020 program now through October 1, 2019.

EncourageMe Program Helps Kids Develop Supportive Friendships

It’s not often that a Girl Scout Gold Award project receives national recognition, but that’s what is happening for Atlanta, GA Girl Scout Avery B. For her Gold Award (similar to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout rank), she created the EncourageMe program—a program designed to help teach older elementary school students about supportive friendships.

The program consists of four separate sessions, each with a printable lesson plan, two video lessons, discussion questions about the videos, and activities and games that relate to the topic. The four sessions focus on:

  • Communication
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Conflict

The program is designed to be used in the classroom, but could be used as a PTA event with four stations or as an after school program.

The sessions were all reviewed by a school psychologist, and elementary school counselor, and a middle school counselor to ensure that they covered appropriate skills effectively. She has successfully used the program at four different elementary schools.

Avery B spoke at the Georgia School Counselors Association meeting in 2018 about the EncourageMe program, and it has been featured in the newsletters of both the Florida and Illinois School Counselors Associations. Check out the EncourageMe program as a way for your PTA to help kids develop supportive friendships.

That Google Doc May Not Be Your Kid’s Homework

Today’s teenagers aren’t passing notes in class any more—at least not physically. And while it looks like your kid is diligently working away at their homework, they may actually be chatting with friends. That’s because kids are now getting around the inability to have their phone out in class, the use of blocking software at school and home, and parental rules about no social media when doing homework by using Google Docs as a chat room.

The collaboration tools in Google Docs make it possible for kids to gather and chat. By using different fonts or colors to identify themselves, they can chat in the document itself or copy a document that they are supposed to be collaborating on and chat in the comments. From a distance, it looks like they are working away, and a quick document deletion or resolve of the comments makes the chat disappear if someone comes to take a closer look.

Kids are going to continue to stay ahead of the adults online when it comes to communicating with each other. They’ve always been able to figure out ways around the ways that adults try to stop them, including using the comments section of old blog posts. That’s why it’s best for parents to approach the online world just like they do with the real world—teach them how to be safe and kind. PTAs and parents can take advantage of the PTA Connected programs, from the Smart Talk to set up family guidelines for how to behave online to events created by National PTA in collaboration with Google and Facebook.