Most parents would cite the safety and protection of their children as their highest priority. However, a recent youth survey of Greenwich children from seventh through twelfth grade in both public and private schools, showed that most substance abuse is happening in private homes.
That is one of the main points that Greenwich Together, a group of over 30 community agencies, schools and organizations, convened under the administration of Greenwich-based Kids In Crisis, wanted to drive home during its community presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 12. The purpose of Greenwich Together is to mobilize community members to strengthen youths’ relationships, skills and opportunities to promote mental health, reduce risky behavior and strengthen healthy choices.
In Greenwich, 2,804 youth and 1,310 parents were surveyed measuring both risk and protective factors for substance use and mental health concerns. The good news is that most youth reported no substance use; however alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the past 30 days. The survey also showed that there is a marked increase in past 30-day use of alcohol from Grades 8 to 9. The use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana increased markedly between grades 11-12. Most substance use happens in either their own homes or the homes of friends, which is why Greenwich Together has launched a campaign to educate the community on the Social Host Law, reminding everyone that “Parents who Host Lose the Most”. These lawn signs and banners can be seen around town as well as similar messaging on social media The factors that most significantly influenced Non-Drinkers (no past 30-day use) as opposed to Drinkers were:
more likely to recognize family rules discouraging drinking
more likely to have a family that knows where they are and what they are doing
more likely to perceive risks in drinking and smoking marijuana
more likely to feel that friends and family disapproved of use
Conversely, parents were more likely to overestimate past 30-day use of substances by other students in their child’s grade and feel that their child is less likely to be the one using. Parents also overestimate the clarity of family rules around use since half of the youth surveyed reported NOT having a recent family conversation about use especially as they get older.
For the first time, mental health questions were included in the survey. More than half of youth in all grades reported feeling anxious and/or sad/depressed and/or lonely in the past 30 days. It is likely that COVID has contributed to those feelings. Youth across all grades frequently reported “a lot of stress” from measures of academic performance and parental expectation. Parents and youth agree that feeling anxious and depressed are prevalent across youth in all grades.
A panel of experts made these recommendations: • Base your parenting on who your kids are, not who you want them to be. • Strike while the iron is cold! Start talking to your kids BEFORE they start going to parties. • Be authentic and lead by example. The more you show your humanness, the more you are lovable. • Delay onset of first use of substances. The longer you can delay, the less likely substance use will become a lifelong problem. • Let your kids know they can contact you at any time, in any condition, no questions asked • Be explicit about family rules • Ask questions about stress levels and talk to your medical provider if you are worried it is more than typical teen stress.
Adult and Youth members of the Greenwich Together coalition are working hard to change these findings by providing educational programs, police led compliance checks for retailers, and working with retailers to check ID’s to be sure the customer is of legal age for both alcohol and tobacco products.
For more information on Greenwich Together contact Ellen Brezovsky, Prevention Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.greenwichtogether.org/.