Dear Flint Hill School Families,
The rains recently gave us hope that the spring we all want and need is finally here! We want flowers blooming in all their glory and the grass to turn bright green. At the same time, the rains remind us that life takes careful planning and a good bit of luck to have it all come together. We may need an umbrella or a jacket at times, but with careful preparation, we can adjust and learn to be resilient.
Raising our children is a lot like the onset of spring; we have dreams for their ultimate outcomes, but we do get “rained” on occasionally. Whether it is struggles with learning, a bullying situation, our feelings being hurt, family discord, or peer pressure, it can “rain” sometimes. How we prepare for those showers, how we deal with them when they arrive, and what we learn from them, is always key. The “rains” of life can make our children stronger for the future, if we help them remain safe through the process and grow from the experience.
Last week, our Sophomores took part in the Community of Concern event. And tonight, Grade 8 will be involved in this important program. These are collaborative efforts among the School, our students and our parents to be proactive and to focus on preventing drug and alcohol abuse. The threat of drug and alcohol is huge in our country today. It is a major “downpour” that easily drowns our children if we don’t do everything possible to prevent it. And sadly, these concerns have been real for decades. In 1971, President Nixon coined the term “war on drugs.” Years later, Nancy Reagan promoted the “Just Say No” campaign to help in the effort. And just the other day, President Trump signed an executive order to fight the opioid crisis that it is engulfing people all across our great country.
I have been actively involved in the prevention of drug abuse since early in my career in Maryland. This effort led to my involvement in Houston, Denver and San Antonio. In San Antonio, I worked collaboratively with a group to create a program, called The Mission of Care, which was a collective of schools doing the same work that the Community of Concern continues to do right here. A major effort like this requires our unconditional love, our collective focus, and a tremendous amount of education, for both students and adults alike.
Flint Hill provides an extensive educational program on alcohol and drug abuse prevention through our Counseling Department, and our efforts are visible in all three divisions. But what can you do as parents? What is your responsibility? How can you actively work to safeguard your children from these cultural pressures? Here is some helpful advice:
- Be knowledgeable. Know the facts and don’t rely just on your experiences growing up. Many things have changed in terms of accessibility and even the chemical makeup of the drugs that are available. It’s important to learn as much as you can and share this information with your children at appropriate times. In some cases, you might surprise them with your knowledge and your understanding of the experiences that may be before them.
- Set boundaries. Remember you are the parent. In fact, the “Just Say No” campaign, which was focused on young people, might have had even a greater impact if it had been focused on adults as well. “No” can be a complete sentence. Upper School parents should never allow children to drink at parties in their homes or tolerate it in other homes. While our culture has confused the issues with a sense that drinking is a “rite of passage” and just “kids being kids,” the laws are very clear. Set curfews and hold children accountable for those curfews. Even if you can’t wait up for them, ask them to wake you up when they get home, so you can check the time and have a brief conversation with them. You will learn a great deal in those few minutes. I know we did with our own boys!
- Listen. How are your children reacting to news stories about alcohol and drug issues, scenes in movies or on television? Listen to their take. Do they think these behaviors are normal or acceptable? You need to know what their views are, and then you need to talk to them to reinforce their good judgment or carefully begin to get them to question their own expectations. They are their own individuals and their views may be in sharp contrast to your own. If this is the case, it’s important to know.
- Stay engaged. Call the parents, who are hosting a party, before the party. Attend coffees at school regarding this critical topic. Attend the Community of Concern meetings when your child reaches the appropriate grades. These gatherings have really had an impact on many families. They initiate conversations that need to take place between every child and parent. Pick up pamphlets whenever you see them on these topics, and take them home to help increase your knowledge and to share with your children. A great technique that I used for many years was to ask my kids to evaluate such material. I wanted to hear their opinions and keep these issues top of mind.
There are so many things that warrant our attention here at Flint Hill as we work with our students and their families to prepare them for the world. This topic is the one that, I must admit, scares me the most. So often, our culture tries to normalize destructive behaviors, but the evidence is really clear. The use of alcohol and drugs at early ages can lead to all kinds of concerns. From addiction to life threatening incidents, the outcomes can be devastating.
We have a huge opportunity to do things better with this generation than we have ever done before. Join us in doing everything we can to make certain that our children are getting the knowledge they need so they can take responsibility for themselves and their friends in the face of these temptations. Together, we can help them grow stronger through these “showers” and then bloom in the ways that make us all marvel at who they have become!!
If we can help you in any way in this journey, please don’t hesitate to call on us.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas