Wednesday evening dozens of Missoula residents met for a community meeting to discuss ways to prevent teens from abusing drugs and alcohol.
According to a recent study done by Missoula Underage Substance Abuse Prevention, 38 percent of Missoula teens report drinking alcohol.
One idea brought up by parents and community members to help prevent substance and alcohol abuse was eliminating the number of community events that sell alcohol, including UM Griz games.
Other ideas included planning multiple family dinner nights each week, becoming friends with your kid on Facebook, knowing who your kids are friends with, and encouraging teens to stay involved in community activities and sports.
Drug and alcohol abuse prevention coordinators tell us parents are the No. 1 influence on their children. That's why they advise -- don't be your child's friend, be their parent.
Brandee Tyree, coordinator of Missoula Underage Substance Abuse Prevention Program (MUSAP), says it’s important to ask your kids what’s going on in their life and to be truthful with them about what your concerns are.
“It's not always easy to do, but a lot of law enforcement will tell you their rooms are your property and being in their rooms can tell you a lot about a kid,” says Tyree. “It's a great conversation point, so you shouldn't make assumptions about what you see, but again it is a great conversation point.”
Many parents asked coordinators questions about the best way to talk to their kids, how they can help their kids’ friends if they are in trouble with drugs or alcohol and what resources there are in the community.
“Constantly seek out professionals to ask ‘What should I be asking my kids, when should you be more invasive than not,’” says Tyree. “Personally I believe it's their lives that are at stake, so if opening their bedroom door means they might not talk to you for 3 weeks, but you found out they were doing something dangerous -- it’s hard but it's probably worth it in the long run.”
Event organizers tell us they have a number of resources for parents who might need help talking to their kids about drugs, alcohol and other difficult topics.
Missoula Underage Substance Abuse Prevention recently released a parent resource guide; it includes a number of statistics, advice and more.
Another good resource for students is abovetheinfluence.com. Tyree says it is a good website for parents and their teens to look at together.
Tyree tells NBC Montana MUSAP is happy to give presentations and lectures to schools, organizations and other groups in Western Montana and Missoula, for more information on that click here.