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.

Is Your PTA a Clique?

Today’s guest post comes from Washington State PTA with some advice on how to avoid having your PTA seen as a clique.

Sometimes, the reason more people don’t join your PTA is because they feel unwelcome. Whether warranted or not, your PTA may have a reputation as a clique. Overcoming this common issue can be challenging because it requires the focus and commitment of your group as a whole.

The first obstacle to overcome – and the spot where most groups get stuck – is agreeing there’s a problem. When a PTA is labeled a clique, most leaders instinctively go on defense, arguing all the reasons the label isn’t accurate. And, in many cases, a group may have a compelling argument as to why that perception is wrong. However, it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is this: if your PTA is perceived as a clique, it IS a clique. And the more you argue that point, the stickier the label becomes and the harder to remove.

Think about it: how often does a group of friends decide to call themselves a “clique?” Pretty much never, right? But you can probably think of several examples of cliques you’ve encountered in your life. Groups get labelled “cliques” by those who consider themselves outside of one. In other words, it’s a matter of how others perceive your group. Perception is reality; that is, others’ perception of your group is the reality of your group’s reputation.

Once you’ve come to terms with your PTA’s public perception, the only way to change that reputation is with consistent action over a sustained period of time. Your board (or other group of leaders) must dedicate the time and consistency required for the change to happen. Each person must be willing to change how things are done, which can be a hard pill to swallow for an established PTA. Even if a board member disagrees with a change, they must be able to rise above their personal feelings for the benefit of the group. Naysayers are always on the hunt for a sign that things haven’t really changed, and if anyone in your group isn’t walking the talk, that person will become the “sign” those naysayers seek.

Once your board owns up to its reputation as a clique and agrees to do what’s necessary to change, the real work begins. The quickest way to combat a negative public perception is to analyze those actions that are creating that perception and then change them (and don’t assume you already know – that’s what got your PTA in this dilemma in the first place). Sometimes it’s possible to gather this information through a constructive discussion among honest, well-intentioned stakeholders. However, that’s often not an option, in which case your board should take time to walk through all of your PTA’s touchpoints with “the public” and consider where there may be opportunities to improve your perception as a welcoming group. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. At every PTA function, proactively seek out any new faces and introduce yourself. You might not recognize them, but they probably recognize you. Undoubtedly, you are that person “from the PTA,” and the way you behave toward them is the biggest factor in determining their opinion of your group.
  2. Regardless of your good intent, do not huddle together with fellow board members in private conversation during PTA events. If you catch yourself doing this, agree to separate out and canvas the area.
  3. Get folks on a level playing field by asking everyone to wear name tags at meetings and events, from the president to the first-time attendee.
  4. Communicate to families in the languages they speak. Find a parent or community member who can help translate materials and even serve as an interpreter at meetings. Make sure to advertise the availability of interpreters and materials to encourage participation among diverse groups. Don’t forget to personally tell them how happy you are that they’re in attendance.
  5. Eliminate the practice of having the board sit together (or at a head table) at membership meetings. Minimize side conversations, inside jokes, and chit-chat, which can make newcomers feel like outsiders.
  6. Explain each piece of business, and steer clear of obscure terms and insider jargon. Don’t assume “everyone knows that.”
  7. Instead of having board members volunteer together at an event, assign a mix of new and old volunteers to each station or shift.

While there will always be critics, it’s up to you to decide which words may have some truth behind them. And, since the clique label is a matter of others’ perception, it’s usually a good idea to pay attention to others labeling your PTA a clique. You may uncover a multitude of opportunities to improve your reputation, increase your membership, and broaden your volunteer base.

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.

Helping Your Child Get Organized

At times, parenthood feels like an endless battle against chaos. From messy rooms to backpacks stuffed with papers, our children sometimes appear to have never heard the words “neat” or “tidy.” When that chaos is resulting in missed assignments, forgotten lunches, and lost homework, it can be difficult to help them get organized. An article from the Child Mind Institute has some suggestions to help you teach your child these essential skills.

Whether your child has ADHD,executive functioning issues, or simply has never been taught how to get organized, it’s not enough to tell them to try harder. Getting organized requires doing things differently and developing new habits. Organization practices aren’t a “do it this way” solution, but a “find out what works for you.” That means some trial and error, some setbacks, and some persistence is needed to help your child get organized.

Remember that getting organized is a process, not a formula, so be prepared to them learn from the approaches that fail, discover the things that could be improved, and continue to do the things that worked. Other suggestions from the article include:

  • Identify weak spots
  • Use tools
  • Don’t get bogged down in planning
  • What actually works is better than what is supposed to work
  • Sustainability is key
  • Stop beating yourself up and start moving on

The article also notes a few universal tips to being organized that almost always apply to whatever system your child develops:

  • Write it down
  • Put the same thing in the same place every time
  • Make easy-to-lose things bulky
  • Breaking overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces will help you get things done
  • The simpler the better

For more information on all of these tips, check out the full article at the Child Mind Institute. Helping your child get organized is like enlisting them on your side in the battle against chaos in your household.

Photo © 2011 by Kristina Alexanderson under Creative Commons license.