New Tools Help Parents Talk with Kids About Alcohol, Drugs

EAGLEVILLE PA – A new public campaign that intends to give parents and caregivers resources they need to address the issues of youth alcohol and drug use is being rolled out to local health and human service organizations and area school districts, according to Family Services of Montgomery County and the county Department of Human Services’ Office of Drug and Alcohol.

The effort, titled “Talk. They Hear You,” includes a comprehensive toolkit created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, under the federal Sober Truth on Underage Drinking Act. It emphasizes the importance of parents talking to their kids about alcohol and drug use before they reach an age when they are confronted to make a decision about it.

Additionally, the campaign offers advice for parents about preparing children to deal with peer pressure that may lead to alcohol and drug use.

“Parents have a significant influence on their children’s decisions to experiment with alcohol or other drugs,” said Kelly Canally-Brown, Family Services’ director of programs and services. “Research suggests one of the most influential factors when a child is growing up is a strong, open relationship with a parent. When parents create supportive and nurturing environments, children make better decisions,” she said.

Alcohol continues to be the most widely used substance among Montgomery County’s youth, with 20.7 percent of 10th graders and 35.2 percent of 12th graders reporting alcohol use in the past 30 days, the 2019 Pennsylvania Youth Survey indicates. Marijuana is also prevalent among adolescents, with one quarter (25 percent) of 12th graders reporting use in the past 30 days.

Also, vaping of nicotine and marijuana products has greatly increased between 2017 and 2019 from 31.6 percent to 55.5 percent for nicotine, and from 20.0 percent to 37.2 percent for marijuana or hash oil.

Alcohol and drug use can have severe consequences, added Kay McGowan, county Office of Drug and Alcohol administrator. They include poor judgment and decision-making; difficulty with attention, concentration, problem solving, learning, and memory; mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety disorders; or injury or death from accidents.

To help parents prepare for these conversations, a “Talk. They Hear You.” mobile app has been created with simulations that helps parents learn do’s and don’ts of talking to kids about alcohol and drug use. It also guides parents in asking questions and sharing ideas on how to keep the conversation going.

The Office of Drug and Alcohol provided funding to implement “Talk. They Hear You.” Billboards (at top) are appearing this month throughout the county, as well as television public service announcements, car magnets, lawn signs, banners, print materials, and social media messaging. For more information and resources, or to download the “Talk. They Hear You” mobile app, see the website here.

Photo supplied by Montgomery County Family Services