ARCH comes to Devon Elementary School to discuss Substance Abuse

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By Ananya Kulkarni, Web Editor

The TESD parent-run organization, ARCH (Area Residents Helping and Caring, Inc.) held an event entitled “Have you had the Conversation?” on April 2. The event took place at Devon Elementary School and was used as a forum to educate parents on how to discuss issues such as substance abuse with their children before they reach adolescence.

“We wanted parents to get more comfortable with the idea of talking to their younger children about substance use and to share with them why
it’s important to start the conversation with younger kids,” said TESD liaison for ARCH, Jeanne Braun.

The organization typically holds two events a year for parents within the community in order to spread their message of preventing substance use in children.

“Parents are such important models for their children. We encourage adults to be mindful about the language we use to describe someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder, or who is clearly under the influence,” executive director of ARCH Kim Porter said.

The language a parent uses is vital in ensuring children are able to voice their struggles or concerns.

“When parents express empathy and support, rather than judgement or disgust, children are much more likely to ask questions, share concerns about a loved one, or even self-disclose their own challenges,” Porter said. “We can lay the foundation for open conversations at a very early age and begin having those conversations long before there is a ‘crisis,’ or the potential for heightened emotions.”

According to Braun, statistics clearly indicate that age plays a large factor in how likely someone is to become addicted to the substance they begin using. One in four people will battle addiction if they use alcohol and drugs regularly before the age of 18, whereas only one in 18 will become addicted if they start using addictive substances after the age of 21. Furthermore, genetic predisposition is an extremely highrisk factor, meaning a family member battling addiction is something children need to be aware of before making their own decisions regarding addictive substances.

“Very few adolescents are immune to peer pressure– which is why many young people start using alcohol and drugs–so we hope that parents can prepare their children for that kind of pressure and give them accurate information about the effects of alcohol and drugs,” Braun said.

Braun also believes that while approaching a young child, such as an elementary student about such serious topics might be difficult, children are much more likely to listen to their parents if an existing foundation of trust is in place.

“The reasons to ‘not use’ have so much to do with being healthy both physically and emotionally, so it’s natural for parents to address drugs and alcohol while they are also talking about nutrition, sleep, screen time and all the important things parents want to teach our children,” Braun said.

ARCH hopes that through these events, they will be able to help parents help their children make good decisions through their teenage years.

“It is not easy being a teenager and a young adult today; there is a lot of stress and pressure and often that can lead to substance use,” Braun said. “We want to reduce the stigma of addiction and mental health issues. We need to be able to talk about these things in our families, in our school and in our community and ARCH wants to provide parents with important resources to help.”