Prevention and Unrealistic Perfection Begin at Home
By Robin Jovanovich
We are the lucky ones. In a town of 16,000 residents, we have countless nonprofits, school and religious leaders, and professionals working tirelessly on youth issues. How do we lessen their stress, but make sure they get into the best college? How do we steer them away from smoking, vaping, alcohol, and all substance abuse? How can we give them more independence without fear that they will do the wrong thing?
On a local level, the RyeACT Coalition, Rye YMCA, and Rye Youth Council are making a tremendous difference by keeping discussion frequent and probing, and by hosting community workshops and programs that reach both kids and parents. They seek to educate and spread awareness.
With more than 75,000 deaths from drug overdose in the United States last year and a growing number of young people in drug treatment facilities, we asked a leader in prevention, Tina George, Student Assistance Program Coordinator at Caron Treatment Centers, for her perspective. For over 60 years, Caron has been helping people recover from addiction and rebuild their lives.
“One of the biggest reasons teens feel more stress and anxiety today,” said George, “is that they are overscheduled. They shouldn’t have to be some place every day after school and up late every night.”
Another reason is expectations are higher. “We keep upping the ante. We’re a more competitive society in every area of performance,” continued George. “It’s not enough to be a 4.0 student, you’ve got to start a sport in seventh grade.” George works with a lot of young athletes and challenges that notion.
She also works with students who needed prevention intervention before they went to college and unfortunately didn’t receive it.
“There is a tremendous amount of denial among parents of troubled teens. They often ascribe the problem to social media and peer pressure, but it is more often pressure from the parents themselves that is at the root,” posited George. “You don’t want to let kids hit rock bottom before you get them help; you also don’t want to send them off to college, which is a less supportive environment, if they are struggling.”
Prevention is harder today and multi-faceted, she stressed. “Parents can’t base what’s happening in their kids’ lives on their own teen experiences — ‘Oh, I did that as a kid, and I turned out all right.’ The access to and intensity of drugs has changed the picture dramatically in recent years. Kids are playing pharmacy, not always for pleasure, just to cope.”
The focus needs to be on healthy behavior, according to George. “If we don’t address their depression and ways to cope, they’re going to find other ways to cope.”
George said she’s seen far too many teens whose parents gave them drugs to help them study and just as many whose parents use alcohol but not responsibly and casually say, “I need a drink” upon their arrival home from work.
The most important thing the parent of a teen can do is try to converse with him or her. For starters, George encourages parents to download the “Talk They’ll Hear You” app. This writer also encourages parents to watch Tina George’s video in which she addresses the unrealistic images of perfection,