STUTTGART, Germany -- Children can easily find drugs; the ingredients for a high can be as close as a bathroom cabinet or a corner drugstore.

However, parents still have the largest role in their child's decisions regarding drugs, according to last week's Family University workshop on keeping children drug free.

"We need to set the example," Adolescent Substance Abuse Counselor Jasmin Coty advised parents during the class. "They are listening."

During the class, parents and guests talked about which drugs were popular during their childhood and what they did for fun. They also discussed how much responsibility parents should take for their child's decisions.

Coty said parents' habits send messages to children on whether it is OK to use drugs and alcohol to relax. "Being aware of what we say around our children is also very important," she said.

"Parents should provide opportunities for children to learn life skills, such as decision-making and peer refusal skills, in order for children to be able to handle real-life situations," said Coty.

She said children can be pressured by peers to smoke tobacco, drink, try drugs, shoplift, bully others, vandalize or cheat at school. "It is important that teens learn decision-making skills, and that parents provide opportunities to have dialog with their children about what difficult peer pressure situations exist and how they handle these difficult situations," Coty added.

Although the majority of students in the Stuttgart Military Community do not use drugs, the most popular substances are marijuana and alcohol, said Randy Zamerinsky-Lussier, an ASACS counselor.

"More kids say 'no' because they're invested in their education," she said. "That's a testament to our community."

However, parents should still be aware of the drug trends their children face today, she added. These include children taking over-the-counter drugs, or using someone else's prescription drugs to get high, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

"It's scary to hear what's out there," said Ilka Matze, an Army Community Service employee and mother of two. "You have to communicate and make time with your child."

In order to detect whether their child is using drugs, parents should look for changes in their child, such as their physical appearance or behavior, Zamerinsky said.

JoAn Stopa-Beecroft attended Family University to understand the dangers that her 14-year-old daughter faces. "[I learned] just how to be a better parent - to help my daughter face the pressures of substance abuse," she said.

No matter the trends, parents can help their children refuse drugs and alcohol by showing them how, Coty said. "If you're the healthy adult role model, that's half the battle. Kids are going to do what they see."

Page last updated Thu April 23rd, 2009 at 05:10