Keep kids drug-free this summer — Start Talking!

<strong>Sarah Smith</strong> Contributing Columnist

Sarah Smith Contributing Columnist

Summer break is upon us, and for tweens and teens this means no homework, plenty of free time, and less supervision.

While a majority of youth will find healthy ways to keep busy, some unfortunately will use their unsupervised freedom to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Now that your kids are no longer in school, how can you be sure that they will stay out of trouble this summer? How do you know that they won’t get involved with drugs? It’s time to Start Talking!

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and First Lady Karen Kasich launched the Start Talking! youth drug prevention initiative to give parents, guardians, educators, and community leaders the tools to start the conversation with youth about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives. Whether it’s at the swimming pool, on the baseball diamond, around a campfire, or at a family picnic, Start Talking! gives adults research-based tools and resources to help prevent substance abuse before it starts.

Start Talking! is rooted in national research that shows teens whose parents talk to them about the dangers of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use than children who do not have these critical conversations with a trusted adult.

The initiative features three main components:

1) Know! provides free, twice-monthly emails that offer parents tips to help them talk about the risks and consequences of drug abuse.

2) Parents 360Rx features a free, downloadable toolkit to help communities come together to support local prevention efforts. The toolkit includes a video, discussion guide, handouts, and other resources to decrease the risk of children taking illegal drugs or abusing prescription medicines.

3) 5 Minutes for Life is a program led by the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Ohio National Guard and local law enforcement in partnership with high schools, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Troopers, law enforcement officers, and Guard members talk to student athletes to encourage them to become ambassadors who lead peer-to-peer conversations that promote healthy lifestyles.

Here are more ways you can encourage your kids to make smart, healthy decisions this summer:

• Take advantage of life’s teachable moments to reinforce the drug-free message.

• Don’t let them go to unsupervised parties.

• Maintain an open channel of communication.

• Keep unsupervised time to a minimum.

• Always know who they’re with and what they’re doing.

• Acknowledge and reward positive behaviors.

• Encourage them get involved in summer activities.

• Help them find a job.

• Set a good example.

We all can play a role in preventing youth drug use. Don’t underestimate the effect that the things that you say and do have on shaping your children’s opinions and attitudes towards life. Be upbeat and driven, be compassionate and caring, be a role model, be a talker and a listener. Visit to get started. Have a safe, healthy summer!

Sarah Smith is the director of Ohio’s Start Talking! Youth Drug Prevention Initiative.

Sarah Smith Contributing Columnist Smith Contributing Columnist