August 10, 2015 —

Education is the key, sound familiar? Of course it does, we hear it all the time and know it to be true, yet we still have so much work that needs to be done in connecting it with prevention. We can’t effectively prevent something if we are not educated enough about what we are preventing. I have found this to be true time and time again. I began my career in nutrition, educating communities, families and individuals about the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity.  What I found in my work was that education is done two ways: 1: sharing of information and 2: understanding the environment people are in and then tailoring education based on that. Obviously the latter is what works best, but it is complicated to understand an individual’s environment and factors that contribute to it. This is especially true with children, or those under 18 when parents/guardians are the gatekeepers, they create and somewhat control their environment. Parents/guardians and older siblings everyday behaviors are the key influencers to kids. What children learn as normal and acceptable will most likely become normal and acceptable to them as they make decisions. Because we have little control over what happens in the home educators often rely on number 1 sharing the information, hopeful but not necessarily effective.

In my work I always knew this to be true, but it was in 2007 that I lived this as a truth. My adolescent nephew came to live with my husband and me through graduating high school and leaving for college.  Becoming parents of a teenager was a wakeup call for us about the really tough elements of parenting, especially leading by example. I know he saw us have a drink because it had been a rough day at work or take something to help us sleep when suffering with insomnia. What we didn’t realize is that we could talk to him about drugs and alcohol as dangerous but we would use them at times to help us cope, which in turn taught him to seek things to help him cope. What we as parents don’t realize is that we can talk to our kids about risky behaviors, but that is only sharing information. Additionally, we must realize that it is our choices and the environment we provide that really teaches and impacts our kids.

Raising my nephew during those really important and tough teen years is what grew my passion for prevention and made me want to educate about substance use, particularly in creating and communicating messages that are honest, empowering and direct. Addiction and alcoholism is in my family and I know the all too real the impact of it. Therefore, I started a communications and marketing firm to help non-profits, coalitions, schools and other parent groups create social media and marketing campaigns about drugs, alcohol, mental health, bullying and more. In my partnership with clients, I found that a lot of times, we get caught up in talking about the “big” or “really bad” things that we don’t realize that it is the everyday easily accessible things that our kids are actively using.  I have learned more from the groups I work with then they will ever learn from me, it is privilege and I love it.

I am excited to work with the Five Moms campaign and I look forward to learning from other moms (and dads) while working to stop medicine abuse. I think we need to have a better understanding on how pervasive cough medicine abuse is in our communities, why our kids are using it and what we can do together to stop it.  The substances that have the least stigma can have the deadliest of consequences, which is why we need to talk openly and often about DMX and cough medicine abuse.  And how we can stop our kids from abusing. Together, I know we can.