EDUCATING PARENTS ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND PARENTING ISSUESParents are the first line of defense in successful efforts to prevent youth substance abuse. Research indicates that young people who reported strong ties with their parents and families were significantly less likely to engage in risky behavior, including substance abuse (JAMA 1997).
Planning prevention programming that recognizes parents' important role in decisions made by young people will strengthen not only youth resistance to substance abuse, but will strengthen families and the community.
There are three basic types of parent training programs:
Following are some examples of parent training and skill building programs which are available to parent action groups for use both within their own memberships and for use as outreach to the community. Most of these programs have copies of the curriculum and packets available to groups for a preview period at no cost and many offer periodic trainings for trainers for those wishing to offer trainings in their communities. Although this is an overview of many of the parenting enhancement and skill building programs available, it is not intended to be a complete listing.
Active Parenting of Teens for parents of preteens and teensThe mission of Active Parenting is to improve the lives of families by providing innovative video and discussion programs to organizations so they may help parents and their children. Produced in 1983, Active Parenting was the first video-based parenting program in existence. Active Parenting of Teens and Active Parenting Today are designed as six, two-hour sessions and 1,2,3,4 Parents! is designed as three, one and one-half hours sessions. These programs include videotapes, discussion guides, Leader's Guides, Parent's Workbooks and promotional brochures. The programs all deal with issues such as the developmental stages of children and young people and Active Parenting of Teens addresses critical teen problems such as drugs, violence, peer pressure and teen sexuality.
Family And School Together (FAST)The main purpose of FAST is to prevent school failure, enhance family functioning, prevent familial substance abuse and reduce stress. It also addresses the parent-school relationship by helping parents become more actively involved with their child's school.
The core of the program involves eight weekly multifamily meetings usually held in schools, during which positive experiences in family interaction are facilitated by a leadership team. The leadership team has at least four members: a parent partner, a school partner, a community-based substance abuse prevention partner and a community-based mental health partner. Each session features the following key elements:
The program attempts to strengthen bonds within families, among families and between families and community. At the end of 8 weeks, families graduate from the program and participate in monthly follow-up meetings, FASTWORKS, for 2 years. The program develops a support network that helps parents learn how to be the primary prevention agents for their own children. FAST collaborates with schools, parents and not-for-profit human service agencies to strengthen the family's internal bonds as well as its bonds with the school and community. The follow-up meetings are run by parent graduate volunteers, with backup from the collaborative leadership team.
Evaluation results after 8 weeks show statistically significant improvements in the child's classroom and home behaviors in family closeness and in parent involvement in school. Social isolation is reduced and long-term evaluation indicates these gains are maintained. FAST is now active in 25 States, Washington, DC and Canada.
Families Can Make A Difference: A Substance Abuse Prevention ProgramThis parent skill enhancement training is designed to help parents develop a better understanding of how they can help children avoid or stop substance abuse. It is based on research indicating the effectiveness of strategies such as building effective communication, setting limits and close family bonding. The program's main components include a video with discussion guide and related exercises. The facilitator's guide contains three presentation formats: Two are intended for delivery to parent groups and one is for community groups. This program was developed at Purdue University in 1992 by V.L. Spurlock and colleagues. Pre- and post-evaluation questionnaires are available at the above address.
Focus on FamiliesThe main purpose of Focus on Families is to reduce parents' risk for relapse, cope with relapse incidents, reduce drug use, increase family management skills, reduce child risk factors, increase protective behaviors and decrease the incidence of substance abuse among children.
This program is most appropriate for addicted parents enrolled in methadone treatment and who have had at least 90 days of treatment prior to beginning it. Families participate in a 5-hour family retreat to learn about the curriculum, identify goals and participate in trust-building activities. This is followed by 32 sessions of 90 minutes each, held twice weekly for 16 weeks. Sessions are held in the mornings for parents, with practice sessions in the evening for parents and children together. Topics covered include family goal setting, relapse prevention, communication skills, management skills, family expectations about substance abuse use, teaching skills to children and helping kids succeed at school. Sessions and follow-up home care are provided by master's level therapists.
Los Niños Bien Educados and Effective Black Parenting ProgramLos Niños Bien Educados is based on child-rearing research with Latino families and recommendations of nationally respected Latino educators and mental health specialists. Los Niños presents a wide range of basic child-rearing skills, along with "dichos" or Latino proverbs, used to make the learning and use of skills compatible with Latino cultural traditions. Parents learn how to praise effectively, to confront, to use family conversations and to employ "time out" procedures. The program is widely used in schools, mental health and social service agencies, churches and hospitals. It addresses school dropout prevention and drug and child abuse. It is taught as a 12-session class for groups of parents, with the last session serving as a graduation celebration. In addition to basic program materials, an audiocassette presentation is available.
The initial field testing of this program in the 1980s was with newly immigrated Latino families and was found to be highly successful. Participating parents reported their relationships with their kindergarten children as being either better or much better, whereas parents who did not attend the classes saw their relationships with their children as being the same or getting worse over a comparable time period. Children's behavior improvements were reported by parents and confirmed by teachers. Los Niños Bien Educados is now being used nationwide as the centerpiece of parent involvement programs in school districts, as part of dropout prevention projects and as part of community efforts to combat poor outcomes for youth.
Effective Black Parenting Program teaches a set of parenting strategies and child management skills from within an African-American perspective using African proverbs to reinforce ancestral heritage. The Pyramid of Success for Black Children, Modern Black Self-discipline, Pride In Blackness and Chit-Chat Time are examples of culture-based strategies. Parents learn to put child management skills to work in their families to raise proud and confident children.
Positive Indian ParentingThis curriculum is designed to provide a brief, practical culturally-specific training program for Indian Parents. The first goal of the curriculum is to help Indian parents explore the values and attitudes expressed in traditional child-rearing practices and then to apply those values to modern skills in parenting. Since there is no one tradition among Indian people for child rearing, several examples from numerous tribes are used as examples. It is the assertion of this curriculum that parents can develop positive attitudes, values and skills that have their roots in Indian cultural heritage, thereby promoting the growth and well-being of the Indian child through positive parenting.
MELDThis parenting enhancement training is aimed at parents of newborns to 3-year-olds. It uses peer support groups to help strengthen families by reducing the social isolation that can lead to child abuse and neglect. Various program activities are undertaken to increase parents' knowledge of child development; to increase parents' ability to solve problems, make decisions and manage family life and to nurture parents' personal growth. Support peer groups meet weekly or twice a month for a period of 2 years. Groups are facilitated by community volunteers who are carefully recruited, trained and supervised by a local certified MELD professional.
A MELD Young Moms program was studied at seven sites and found to have resulted in a positive and significant shift in attitudes and beliefs about parenting and nurturing children. Some outcomes included more appropriate expectations in line with the child's abilities; increased awareness of the child's needs and better response to those needs.
Nurturing Parenting ProgramThis program is aimed at families with children ages 0 through 19. Its purpose is to build nurturing skills as an alternative to abusive parenting attitudes and practices. It is based on a re-parenting philosophy. It seeks to stop the generational cycle of child abuse, reduce juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse and reduce teen pregnancy. Parents and children attend separate groups engaging in cognitive and affective activities that build self-awareness, self-esteem and empathy. They learn alternatives to yelling and hitting as well as enhanced family communication patterns and expectations that are realistic in terms of the child's stage of development.
This program includes 13 different versions that target specific age groups, cultures and needs. For example, there are special programs for infants, school-aged children, and teens; Hispanics, Southeast Asians and African Americans; and children with special learning needs and families in recovery. Group sessions are held weekly for 2 to 3 hours, and for a period of 12 to 45 weeks. Programs can be held in group sites or delivered in the home setting.
The Parent ConnectionEstablished in 1992, The Parent Connection focuses on the importance of the parent/child relationship in its efforts to help children avoid harmful substances. Originally designed for use in the workplace, this program teaches parents how to communicate more effectively with their children about substance abuse.
The program is a communications program which facilitates discussion of substance issues parent to parent. This sharing process involves role-playing games and "what would you do in this situation?" activities. Busy, working parents learn how to find time to talk with their young people about substance abuse and related topics. To help parents feel more confident in discussions with their children, they are taught the street names of drugs and their effects on young growing bodies.
Designed for 10 sessions, the full curriculum is available in English and Spanish and reaches parents of children ages 5 through 9 and of youth ages 10 through 15. Also included is a complete marketing plan so facilitators can recruit parent participants.
The Parent ProjectThe main purpose of this training is to establish networks for working parents, improve paren/child relationships; help balance work and family life; improve corporate climate for workers; improve parents' skills in preventing substance abuse and other problems that occur in teen years. It is most appropriate for working parents of children ages birth through 18.
The program is presented at work sites during the lunch hour. It addresses common issues such as balancing work and family, communication, discipline, learning styles, sibling relationships, sex role conditioning, substance abuse and other issues. It also focuses on specific developmental issues: child care, tantrums, sleeping and eating patterns, communicating with school personnel, peer pressure and establishing family policies regarding substance use. School performance, male/female relationships and increasing levels of responsibilities as children grow older are also addressed.
A study showed that some parents reported significant and lasting changes in their child's behavior and rated children's behavior more positively. Their parenting practices changed positively and punitiveness declined. Parental stress and depression were reduced. Increases in substance abuse knowledge and negative attitudes toward drug use were noted.
Parent to Parent, Parenting for Safe and Drug-Free YouthThe purpose of this parenting skills enhancement training program is to empower parents to counter influences of drug culture in the lives of their young people. It is aimed at parents of children of all ages.
Parent to Parent offers a unique approach in helping parents deal with the difficult issues facing today's families. It is not a program that attempts to preach to parents about how to raise their children, nor does it attempt to impose its own standards or values upon parents. Instead, it is an interesting and dynamic video-based workshop designed to bring parents together for the purpose of helping their children through the challenging passage into adulthood. The Parent to Parent program is contained in 8 video sessions dealing with:
This program is designed to challenge the thinking of the participants. Each session is conducted by a local facilitator who uses the video modules to convey information regarding issues such as alcohol and drug use, character development, communication skill and more. The real power of Parent to Parent is in the exercises and discussions which follow each of the video modules. It is during this time the parents begin to internalize the information and develop a plan of action that fits the needs of their own families.
Preparing for the Drug-Free Years (PDFY)This program is aimed at parents of children in grades 4 through 9 that wish to reduce risks of drug abuse and other behavioral problems. PDFY is designed for use before children begin experimenting with drugs. Its focus is on family relations, family management practices and family conflict resolution. Parents acquire the skills to reduce children's risk factors for drug abuse. They also learn the principles of social development strategies to strengthen family bonding.
PDFY features two volunteer workshop leaders, one of whom is a parent, who deliver the program in five 2-hour sessions or ten 1-hour sessions. Parents learn to increase children's opportunities for family involvement, teach needed skills and provide reinforcement and consequences for behavior. Discussion topics include: the nature of the problem, reducing risks by strengthening family bonds, conduct of family meetings, fostering of communication, establishing a family position on drugs, reinforcing refusal skills, anger management and creating a parent support network.
Strengthening Families Program (SFP)The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) was developed in response to a request from drug-abusing parents at a methadone maintenance clinic to help them improve their parenting skills. Since its initial inception in 1983 as a program for mostly white, middle class parents, SFP has been made culturally sensitive for:
SFP provides 13 weekly meetings of 2 to 3 hours in length. Three separate courses are offered: Parent Training, Children's Skills Training and Family Life Skills Training. Parents learn how to gain the child's attention and reinforce positive behavior; they also acquire skill in communication, substance use education, problem solving, setting boundaries and maintenance. Kids learn communication, understanding feelings, social skills, problem solving, resisting peer pressure, substance use issues and rule compliance. Families jointly practice therapeutic child play and conduct weekly meetings to address issues and plan activities. Incentives to participation include transportation, child care and family meals.
Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and CommunitiesThe main purpose of this program is to reduce drug/alcohol use, teen suicide, juvenile delinquency, gang involvement, child abuse and domestic violence and is aimed at parents of children ages 3 through 18. It integrates various proven prevention/intervention strategies that reduce violence against self, the family and the community. Its short-term objectives are to increase the parents' sense of competence; the positive interactions and relationships among the family, the parents and the children; the child's self-esteem, self-discipline and social competency; and the involvement of parents in community activities. Parent training classes are held in churches, schools, community agencies and other locations. The program includes 12 3-hour sessions taught in consecutive weeks. Materials are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. A Russian translation is in progress.
Listings for recommended resource publications for educating parents are found in Bibliography sections entitled "Coalition Building/Community Involvement" and "Recommended Reading for Parents, Grandparents and Other Caregivers" in the back of this guide.
Choosing a Parenting Enhancement and Skill Building Training ProgramChoosing a culturally and ethnically appropriate parenting program when there are so many programs available may seem a daunting thing. However, the key to determining which program is the best fit for a particular parent group is a fairly straightforward process:
Step One: Obtain review copies of potential parent training programs.The following checklist may be used to identify strengths and weaknesses and determine where adjustments may need to be made in any prevention program under consideration.
Planning Prevention ProgrammingBecause of the high level of interest in substance abuse and related issues, many substance abuse-related materials and programs have been generated. Some are going to be more effective than others. Substance abuse prevention is not a "one size fits all" situation in which any set of prevention materials and programs will work as well as any other; it should be a process of careful examination and selection. In the process of selecting prevention programming, it will be helpful to use the list of the 10 Key Elements of good programs found in the segment entitled "Choosing a Parenting Enhancement and Skill Building Training Program." Each potential program should be reviewed using this checklist to assess the potential effectiveness of that program. This process will give a solid base to the activities and programs selected for implementation.
Mobilizing the parent action group to work for change is not always a simple thing to achieve. When people share a sense of community they are motivated and empowered to change problems they face; when people feel an important part of a community, they will be more likely to work for needed changes. It's important that the group continually be involved in activities/projects and that everyone has a role.
Recommended resource materials on strategies to help mobilize communities, see "Resource Materials for Parent Action Groups" in the Bibliography section of this guide.