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Project encourages talking with your teens

By Bill Spitzer

Austin Postitive Action Coalition

Are you ready to ring in the New Year, or are you still stuck in the past?  This is the time of year we make those resolutions to do things better, lose weight or even rebuild those damage relationships.  If you are like me you probably make these resolutions with good intentions but something goes wrong along the way.  Maybe its old habits are hard to break or maybe your willpower is just not what it used to be?  The one thing I do like about ringing in the new year, it is almost like you have a clean slate giving you the opportunity to start fresh.

If you have a student that attends Ellis Middle School, Austin High School or Pacelli, you should have received a postcard in the mail from our coalition.  The postcard is the start of our Simply TALK campaign.  Simply TALK is a campaign intended to raise awareness about the importance of talking to your teens about substance abuse.  According to our latest Positive Community Norms (PCN) survey, 88 percent of middle school students and 71percent of high school student agree that parents should clearly communicate the importance of NOT using alcohol.  Even more surprising is that middle school students thought only 31 percent of their fellow students would agree with that statement.  Truth is, your teens want you to talk with them about NOT using alcohol.

The Simply TALK campaign will provide simple tips to start these discussions.  In addition, our campaign will be distributing conversation starter cards in the upcoming months.  These conversation starters are a series of random questions that are intended to engage your teens.  So instead of always asking, how was school today? Which normally generates the standard “FINE” answer!  You will be a Jedi master, with an arsenal of questions to ask your kids.  Building rapport with your teen is very important if you want to have those crucial conversations.  Start with the simple fun questions, like what is their most valued possession and why?  Their answers may surprise you.

In the meantime, have your kids tell you a story about their day.  It may take a few weeks for this to generate the responses you want but remember how long it takes to successfully complete those new year’s resolutions?  Especially the one about reaching that desired weight or repairing those damaged relationships.
Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation (P & I) Coordinator working closely with  Austin Positive Action Coalition.  APAC and Bill will be working with our schools and community as part of a 5-year grant focusing on Positive Community Norms.  Contact him at the Austin High School 507.460.1800 ext. 0361 or via e-mail bill.spitzer@austin.k12.mn.us.  This grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the PRC.  To learn more about the Parenting Resource, visit their website at www.familiesandcommunities.org