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Commentary: It Is Time To Have “The Other Talk”

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As April showers start to usher in a hint of springtime, the month also marks a host of high school transitions, as many juniors initiate college visits and seniors anxiously await acceptance letters. In addition to grappling with how to pay for college, parents also begin worrying about what we should be talking to our teens about before they leave the nest.

We work hard to help our teenagers get into college, focusing on all the appropriate course work, the standardized tests. We nag them to complete the dreaded essays and fill out the application forms on time. And we talk about responsible behavior when they leave home — studying hard, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, spending wisely.

But what about “The Other Talk?” Have we effectively prepared them well for the complete change in social culture they are likely to encounter? In many circles, weekend parties, marijuana use and binge drinking are the norm at college, and impressionable freshman are especially vulnerable to risky behavior. As they struggle to find their new friend groups and fit in, the first two weeks of the school year are the most dangerous for college freshmen. Every fall we read tragic headlines about kids ending up in hospitals from alcohol poisoning, accidental overdoses, substance fueled car wrecks, sexual assaults.

However, the time to start talking to kids about values, behaviors and strategies for confronting these big changes is not the final two weeks of the summer while kids are packing up to leave home. It’s NOW, when high school seniors and juniors, even sophomores, are living safely at home in the family nest, and parents have unpressured moments to begin and continue important conversations.

Granted, talking about substance use and responsible behavior can be really tough to initiate with teens. That’s where an informative program called “The Other Talk” has proven to be helpful. It’s a 90-minute presentation by the Caron Student Assistance Program aimed at helping parents of soon-to-be college students communicate accurate, healthy and practical messages to their children regarding college alcohol/drug use and other risky behavior.

On Wednesday, April 5, at 7:00 p.m. in Brookline High School’s Martin Luther King Room, B-PEN (Brookline Parent Education Network) is hosting a free presentation of “The Other Talk” geared primarily to parents of high school juniors and seniors. Funded by generous grant from Michael Morrissey, Norfolk County District Attorney, and the Brookline Community Fund, the program will include information on current trends, safety tips, and useful strategies for opening the lines of communication with teens. Dr. Suzanne M. Slattery, a BHS parent and licensed psychologist with 15 years’ experience working in college and university counseling and health centers, will offer a brief introduction on patterns of risky behavior in college, as well as guidance on privacy issues related to HIPAA and how parents can stay connected to students regarding health and wellness matters once they leave the nest.

Remember — as parents, we are still our children’s most important influence! Registration for “The Other Talk” can be found at here.

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