DEAR ABBY: I need your help -- and help from America's parents -- in talking with their children about the dangers of drug abuse. From car crashes to lack of productivity in school and at work, to destroying friendships and families, children need to know what drugs REALLY mean. They are disastrous for everyone concerned.
Parents are the core of our team effort. As this new year begins, I'd like parents to resolve to do 10 specific things to keep their families drug-free. I call these the 1999 New Year's Resolutions to Raise Drug-Free Kids. Please share them with your readers, Abby. -- BARRY R. McCAFFREY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY
DEAR BARRY: The longest march begins with a single step. Your resolutions will help parents who are hesitant to discuss illegal drugs with their children. It's a vital dialogue to begin. A Newsweek survey of youth ages 11 to 17 found that parents (86 percent) and grandparents (56 percent) have the greatest influence on young people -- more than TV, movies and music (which scored only 22 percent). Read on:
RESOLUTIONS FOR RAISING DRUG-FREE KIDS
1. START: It's never too early to discourage your children from trying drugs. Protect them by letting them know you care. Even with very young children, this plays an important role in protecting them from drugs. Resolve to start right now.
2. CONNECT: The new year is a time for new beginnings. Begin building lines of communication. Resolve to do things as a family. Spend time together, eat meals together and converse with your kids. Go sledding or skating, read together, play a game, attend services. Show your children that having fun doesn't require drugs.
3. LISTEN: Take a more active interest in your children's lives. Know what they're up to -- what parties they're attending, with whom, what will be served and who will be supervising. Resolve to spend at least 30 minutes a week LISTENING to your kids' cares and concerns.
4. EDUCATE: Spend at least 30 minutes in the next 30 days explaining in simple facts to your kids how drugs can hurt them and destroy their dreams. Then, reinforce that message all year!
5. CARE: Spend at least a few minutes each day telling and showing your children you care about them. Make sure they know how proud you are they are drug-free. Tell them you are always there for them -- no matter what happens. Make sure they know to come to you first for help or information.
6. LEARN: Children today are more sophisticated. In order to educate your children about the danger of drugs, you must first educate yourself. In many cases, you and your children can learn side-by-side. Sit down together in the coming months and learn about the risks drugs pose.
7. SET LIMITS: Show your children you care by declaring limits: THIS family doesn't do drugs. THIS family doesn't hang around with people who do. Enforce these limits. If you say "no drinking and driving," it applies to you, too. Be consistent.
8. GET INVOLVED: Ensure that your community's streets, playgrounds and schools are safe and drug-free. Become active in your PTA. Start or join a community watch group or anti-drug coalition.
9. LEAD: Set an example. Don't drive drugged or drunk; don't let your friends drive impaired. If you, yourself, have a substance abuse problem, use the new year and the support of your loved ones to get help.
10. BE AWARE: Look for the warning signs that your child may be developing a substance abuse problem, and seek help.
READERS: Tomorrow I'll print the warning signs to look for.