Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jan 2002
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2002
Author: Catherine McPherson-Doe


RE: 'Can't scare all kids straight' (Jan. 22) It has been demonstrated 
through research that strategies that attempt to scare kids straight are 
largely ineffective, and worse, may reduce the credibility of adults and 
the willingness of youth to use them as sources of support and guidance.

I expect that Prince Charles reacted with shock and fear when learning of 
his son, Prince Harry's use of marijuana and these emotions drove his 
actions. Many parents in these circumstances experience panic and a strong 
need to protect their children, which often leads to quick, controlling 
responses such as consequences and stronger rules. These types of responses 
may do little to help youth develop the assets necessary to handle the many 
issues of life related to family, school, peers and their futures.

Youth need to be valued, listened to and supported in learning strong 
coping, relationship and communication skills. This needs to occur at a 
community level, within families and within schools. There are many 
factors, which can contribute to a youth moving beyond experimental use of 
substances to problematic use. Stress, isolation, mental health concerns, 
family or school difficulties can all be factors and scare tactics, rules 
or consequences will not change these. The youths' individual circumstances 
and feelings need to be understood and a collaborative plan worked out to 
increase their ability to successfully manage their lives.

Although drug and alcohol use may be seen as a part of growing up, the 
consequences of even experimental use can be serious. It is risky business 
for youth who have developed limited coping skills to experience a quick, 
easy means of handling the many stresses of everyday living. Finding this 
means of coping often can prevent the learning of other more functional, 
healthy ways.

It is important to take youth substance use seriously. We will be more 
effective in supporting youth to be strong, competent adults if we talk 
with them in a way that promotes their skills, self-knowledge and 
confidence rather than in a way that invites fear, rebellion and secrecy.

- -- Catherine McPherson-Doe, executive director, Alternatives for Youth.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom