Parenting Teens in Washington Workshop will focus on marijuana and alcohol

By Kristin Kendle on May 16, 2014

The Washington State drug and alcohol landscape is changing. Alcohol sales have been privatized, and hard liquor is now present on retail shelves. Marijuana has been legalized, and soon enough things like candy and baked-good edibles will be widely available. While these shifting sands may or may not affect adults, parents may be wondering - how will these new laws impact kids, specifically teens who will likely encounter these substances through friends, at parties or in other social situations? What can parents do to prevent their teens from abusing alcohol and marijuana?

The Thurston County drug prevention non-profit TOGETHER! is offering a free workshop for parents aimed at answering these questions. Experts in the fields of substance abuse, parenting, prevention and law enforcement will weigh in on what parents need to know.

"Parents will walk away with a better understanding of the laws, how the laws are changing our culture and the strong message our community is sending about marijuana and alcohol use," said Meagan Darrow, deputy director of TOGETHER! and a speaker at the event. "Most kids in Thurston County do not use drugs and alcohol, but trends are indicating that use may be on the rise. Parents will hear from experts on how to talk to their kids, set boundaries and keep the lines of communication open. Regardless of how you feel about legalization and privatization, it is important for all of us to talk to our kids about drug and alcohol use."

The workshop will bring in four speakers, who will each share insight from their areas of expertise: Jason Kilmer, a substance abuse and prevention researcher and professor at the University of Washington; Emily McMason, a parenting education expert; Meagan Darrow, who works in youth prevention; and Officer Ken Westphal, a School Resource Officer (SRO) with the Lacey Police Department.

Topics will include what SROs are seeing in schools, how community members and parents can educate and advocate for teens in the community, and even why substances like alcohol and marijuana are harmful to teens in the first place. More and more evidence is coming out that even small amounts of these substances can impact teens far more than adults.

Attendees will also hear data about Thurston County teens specifically, and there will be a question-and-answer session with the panel of speakers.

Even if your child isn't interested in drugs and alcohol, the importance of learning about these issues is far reaching. Nearly every teen will know someone dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Parents armed with knowledge are better able to help educate their children and strengthen their children's resolve to abstain.

"I think one of the most concerning things for us in this new climate is that the perception of young people is changing," said Tina Johnson, the program manager at TOGETHER! who is heading up the workshop. "The message that has been communicated to them through media and the community is that marijuana and alcohol are not that harmful.  History has shown that when there is a change in perception of harm with a substance, the use rates have gone up."

The Parenting Teens in Washington Workshop will take place May 21 from 5:30-8 p.m. at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd SW, Building 26, Room 105; Olympia, WA. The event is free and there will be refreshments. To register, click here.