Chris Kelly will teach the free “Parenting for Prevention” class at Tutu’s House on Thursday, Dec. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Substance abuse among teenagers is a prevalent problem in most cities around the country because of the highly addictive qualities of illegal substances and the degree of peer pressure among teens. Hawaii is no exception.
One person hoping to change that is Hawaii Island resident, Chris Kelly. A recovering addict himself, Kelly hopes to prevent the suffering of addiction by informing, empowering, and enlightening young people and their families. On Thursday, Dec. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Kelly will be offering a free class for parents at Tutu’s House called “Parenting for Prevention.”
Kelly explains that he doesn’t tell adults how to parent their child, rather he offers practical information that parents need to talk to their teens about drug use.
“One of the key things is to build an alliance between the parent and the child,” said Kelly. “One way to do that is for the parent to talk about when they have been worried about one of their own friends substance use and abuse. By role modeling a healthy, concerned adult who has love and compassion for someone who is having an addiction issue will many times make the kids feel safer to talk about their own concerns. Whereas if a parent goes the opposite way and asks their child, ‘Do any of your peers get drunk or smoke weed,’ then the child feels a need for secrecy and shuts down.”
Kelly’s workshop will cover the importance of keeping the lines of communication open between parents and teens and the different ways that parents can let their kids know that they are supportive if help is needed.
“I think the biggest mistake parents make is that the first time they talk to their kid about drugs and alcohol is after they’ve caught them using substances,” said Kelly. “The best advice I can give a parent is to talk about substances early and often. And by early I mean starting with kids as young as 5 and 6 years old. Not that you need to talk about methamphetamines with 5 and 6 year olds, but talk about why mommy or daddy drinks coffee and doesn’t serve it to their child, or why mom or dad might have wine or beer with dinner but the kids are drinking milk with dinner. Make it feel normal to talk about these issues so it’s not all of a sudden when the kid is 16 you spring the drug talk on them. Instead it’s been part of your family’s dynamic for as long as they can remember.”
Being a health educator who has personally experienced substance abuse, recovery, prevention, and intervention, Kelly feels it’s important not to moralize or judge. By being willing to listen and hear young people’s concerns, he believes they will be more likely to open up and listen to what he has to share with them. By listening, rather than telling young people what to do, it reduces the chance of encouraging rebellious behavior which teens often engage in to prove their autonomy.
Kelly also believes that people who become addicted often made poor decisions based upon misinformation and ignorance. He hopes to provide the community with the most up-to-date, science based information that will encourage healthy, sensible choices.
“We don’t use scare tactics because the truth is scary enough,” said Kelly. “My message to parents is, it’s never too early and it’s never too late to start talking with your children about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. I’d like to encourage parents to look for the teachable moments where they feel it’s appropriate to bring up something and to do that on a regular basis.”
For more information on the Parenting for Prevention workshop, contact Lorraine Urbic, Tutu’s House program leader, at 885-6777 or visit their website at www.TutusHouse.org.