Parents are the leading influence on whether pre-teens and teens decide to drink alcohol but teachers are also important allies. Parents can make the most of this by asking teachers to give them a head’s up if they notice anything in their kids’ behavior patterns at school.
Teachers have front row seats for the drama that is adolescence. As a high school teacher and a middle school aide in a variety of different schools, I have overheard party planning, broken up fights and make-out sessions, gotten help for victims of relational violence, and just been a sympathetic pair of ears for struggling kids.
You may not realize half of the ups and downs your child goes through during the school day. The reassuring news, though, is that kids want to have that conversation. When a teen wanders around a classroom during lunch, or picks a fight with a parent, you can bet he has something on his mind. It is up to us to get things started and then to ask, listen, and learn. And believe it: they are listening to you (even when they roll their eyes; especially when they roll their eyes).
Teachers see kids for seven hours a day on school days–more, if they advise clubs, coach sports, or direct plays. Even more importantly, they see kids when they are hanging out with their peers. Since many teens seem to think of teachers as androids that never leave the classroom, they talk openly in front of us. Teachers can spot those red-flag social interactions as they are happening and sometimes even drop some truth and subtly reinforce parental guidance.
What teachers also see is how your parent to kid conversations about alcohol really are effective. Yes, we see kids making poor, impulsive choices. We also see kids refusing temptation, standing up for their values, and being positive leaders among their peers.They are using the confidence you built with them and the replies you rehearsed with them to make good choices.
Parenting my own preteen, now, I understand how emotionally vulnerable these kids are and how much they want to do the right thing. I also understand how tough it can be to start the conversation. The tips from Ask, Listen, Learn can help break the ice and give you the facts when your kids ask questions. The community approach, with materials for teachers, parents, and kids, gives us a shared vocabulary and gets us all on the same page in keeping our kids safe.
We all have the same goal and we’re all on the same team.