How You Can Help Your Kids To Deal With Peer Pressure

January 31, 2008

(Originally published by the Center for Mental Health Services)
Peer pressure—it’s more than just a phase that young people go through. Whether it leads to pink hair or body piercing, peer pressure is a powerful reality and many adults do not realize its effects. It can be a negative force in the lives of children and adolescents, often resulting in their experimentation with tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs.

Parents often believe that their children do not value their opinions. In reality, studies suggest that parents have tremendous influence over their children, especially teenagers. No matter the age of their children, parents and caregivers should never feel helpless about countering the negative effects of peer pressure. Here’s what parents and caregivers can do in drug prevention:

• Teach young people how to refuse offers for cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Making children comfortable with what they can say goes a long way. For instance, shy children and adolescents might be more comfortable saying, “no thanks,” or “I have to go,” while those who are more outgoing might saying something like, “forget it!” or “no way!” No matter what approach parents choose, it is important for them to role-play peer-pressure situations with their children.

• Talk to young people about how to avoid undesirable situations or people who break the rules. Children and adolescents who are not in situations where they feel pressure to do negative actions are far less likely to do them. Likewise, those who choose friends who do not smoke, drink, use drugs, steal, and lie to their parents are far less likely to do these things as well.

• Remind children that there is strength in numbers. When young people can anticipate stressful peer pressure situations, it might be helpful if they bring friends for support.
Let young people know that it is okay to seek an adult’s advice. While it would be ideal if children sought the advice of their parents, other trusted adults can usually help them avoid most difficult situations, such as offers to smoke, drink, or use drugs.

• Nurture strong self-esteem. Strong self-esteem helps children and adolescents make decisions and follow them, even if their friends do not think some choices are “cool.” Some ways parents can do this include being generous with praise, teaching children how to perceive themselves in positive ways, and avoiding criticism of children that takes the form of ridicule or shame.

The Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign is part of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program of the Federal Center for Mental Health Services. Parents and caregivers who wish to learn more about mental wellbeing in children should call 1-800- 789-2647 (toll-free) or visit to download a free publications catalog (Order No. CA-0000). The Federal Center for Mental Health Services is an agency of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Oregon Partnership’s Judy Cushing Selected for National Post

January 29, 2008

Judy Cushing, one of Oregon’s most effective advocates in the field of drug prevention, has been appointed to serve on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)National Advisory Council. The request for Cushing to serve a three-year term came from Michael O. Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Council advises, consults with and makes recommendations to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “We are honored to have Judy serve on our Advisory Council,” said SAMHSA Administrator, Terry Cline, Ph.D. “Her innovative leadership and extensive experience will provide us with a very valuable perspective on what SAMHSA can do to strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the country.”

For the past 13 years, Cushing has led Oregon Partnership, a statewide private non-profit organization dedicated to substance abuse prevention, education and treatment referral services. OP also operates the statewide suicide prevention line and three crisis lines in addition to conducting classroom and parents education to prevent drug abuse and underage drinking.

In addition to managing a 16-member staff, Cushing’s responsibilities include  leadership development and public policy advocacy at the state and national levels.

“I’m looking forward to working with SAMHSA and take part in their good work in attacking substance abuse,” said Cushing.

Cushing was a member of the National Research Council Institute of Medicine’s Committee that produced the landmark report, “Reducing Underage Drinking – A Collective Responsibility.

In 2003, she was appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities.

Cushing will serve with 11 other members, most of whom are experts in the fields of substance abuse and mental health.

Oregon Partnership Sees an Increase in Cocaine Use

January 25, 2008

The crisis lines operated by Oregon Partnership are seeing an emerging trend of increased cocaine use in the state.  OP is receiving more than a hundred calls a month from those seeking help with cocaine addiction or knowing family members or friends who have a cocaine problem.

According to OP, a large number of callers are younger and were not subjected to  the public attention that cocaine received in the 1980s and 90s. They also may have missed all the messages about the dangers of the drug.

While theories abound why we’re seeing an uptick in cocaine, it’s obvious that other drugs – such as meth – have been getting more media attention.  When that happens, other illegal drugs that aren’t getting as much notoriety,  see an upsurge by younger users.

Oregon State Police made a major cocaine bust last week, which demonstrated all too well that there is a major market of the drug here on the West Coast.  This, despite the fact that the street price is still high.

Message to parents: Talk to your kids about how cocaine can cause series health problems, that it’s highly addictive and that there’s a reason why it’s illegal.  In drug prevention, parents have the most influence on kids behavior.

Prescription Drug Abuse Increasing Among Oregon Youth

January 18, 2008

Parents, take note of some unsettling statistics: Oregon youth (ages 12-17) rank 4th in the nation for non-medical use of pain relievers.  And for adults, Oregon is 8th in the nation.

This, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). 

Some states – and Oregon isn’t one of them – have begun implementing Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) designed to monitor the prescription and disbursement of prescription drugs designated as controlled substances by the DEA.

Oregon Partnership will be joining others in the next session of the Legislature to get the state on board to better track prescription drug disbursement and to promote prevention as a result of this growing trend among Oregon teens. 

Portland Teens Discovering Oregon Partnership’s YouthLine

January 16, 2008

More high school students throughout the Portland area are discovering that there’s an easy way to talk about what’s bothering them and get some ideas about what to do next.

Welcome to YouthLine, 877-553-TEEN, a free and confidential teen-to-teen counseling, crisis and referral line.

YouthLine is operated by student volunteers and sponsored by Oregon Partnership, a non-profit organization that runs several other help lines supported by state and federal funding and private donations.

“Sometimes the people who call us are having trouble with a best friend or a boyfriend or a parent problem,” says Katie Rosenstein-Houston, 17, a YouthLine volunteer for the past two years and recent graduate of Aloha High School.  “But often the issues have to do with drugs and depression.”

If you’re a high school student, remember this: YouthLine is strictly a help line with nobody trying to sell you, convert you or control you. The whole idea is to talk about what’s on your mind, and get some feedback from people your age who are there to listen and to help.

Since its inception seven years ago, YouthLine has answered some 3,000 calls from teens and concerned friends and family members across Oregon.

And for those who volunteer on Youthline, the experience is positive and rewarding.  Experienced staff at Oregon Partnership offers 40 hours of training, after which participants are ready to join what has been often described as the YouthLine family.

“Nowhere else have I witnessed teenagers to be as mindful and respectful of other people’s beliefs and differences,” said Scott Kibler, 17, a YouthLine volunteer and a senior at Lakeridge High School.  “Awkward topics such as substance abuse, depression, suicide, and dating are all handled with amazing respect  by this group of teenagers.”

Volunteers answer the line Monday through Friday from 4-10 p.m., and adults who answer Oregon Partnership’s Alcohol and Drug HelpLine and the Suicide LifeLine answer Youthline during all other hours, making it available 24/7.

If callers are from outside the Portland metropolitan area, YouthLine’s volunteers offer referrals to resources in the caller’s area of the state.

Over the years, students and parents have credited Youthline for making lives better.  And it all starts with talking things through.

“YouthLine’s goal is to help teenagers be safe and reduce stress by avoiding and dealing with tricky situations,” says Kibler. “In this way, YouthLine is like almost no other place I have come across. Everyone here supports its mission as a lifestyle, not just a weekly volunteer shift.”

“It’s beneficial for both the people who call us and those of us who are part of the YouthLine family,” adds Rosenstein-Houston.

If you think you might want to volunteer, just e-mail Timothy Kelly, the YouthLine coordinator at or call Timothy at 877-553-TEEN.  There’s also the Oregon Partnership website at

And check out the YouthLine MySpace page at

Kids and Their Music: Tips for Parents

January 14, 2008

Have you ever knocked on your child’s bedroom door to ask her to turn down the music she’s listening to? This likely scenario is one that often occurs in households across the Nation. But did you stop and truly listen to the lyrics of your child’s favorite songs? Some songs carry negative messages that may be related to aggressive thoughts and feelings.

Before you try to tune out the “noise” that your child is listening to, consider whether it needs to be limited or turned off.
Music plays a larger role in a kid’s life than parents might realize. With more than 20 music styles to choose from, young people listen to music—radio, CDs, tapes, and music videos—for 3 to 4 hours per day.

 Music often is playing even when kids are watching movies or television, playing video games, or using the Internet.
Music is connected to kids’ emotions and can even help shape their moods. When your child finds a song he really likes, he may listen to it over and over again. Repeating a song for long periods of time can have a strong emotional impact on the listener. For this reason, violent songs can be more influential than other media violence. In fact, researchers found that listening to heavy metal and rap music correlates with hostile attitudes, negative attitudes toward women, lower academic performance, behavioral problems in school, drug use, and arrests.
This negative influence can come from more than the songs alone. When asked to consider their heroes, teens choose musicians more frequently than athletes.

Your child’s favorite singers—whether they are good or poor role models—can have an impact on your child.
Despite the power of music and musicians, it’s important to remember that parents still are the number one influence in teens’ lives.

Extend that influence to your children’s choice of music and:
• Expose children to a broad range of music from an early age. For kids, listening to music from around the world can lead to an adventure of discovery about other countries and cultures.
• Be knowledgeable about the lyrics of your children’s music. Remember, new songs often replace old favorites.
• For younger children, be explicit about your family’s values and what you will and will not allow your child to listen to.
• For older children, keep lines of communication open; ask why they enjoy this music. Set limits on where they can play it and for how long.
• Be aware that listening to rap or heavy metal music is not in itself cause for alarm, but if your child is facing problems with friends, parents, brothers and sisters, or teachers, you might need to seek professional help. Start by talking with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or doctor.
• Encourage use of earplugs at rock concerts and in other places where loud music is played for a long period of time. Explain the effects of loud music on hearing.
• Talk with them about what they are hearing and why some music is not appropriate. Try to limit your child’s contact with music that portrays negative messages.
Being critical of a child’s choice of music can be a tricky issue. Talk with her about her music and help her to see the difference between entertainment and influence. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your child and teaching him to make good decisions can help bring harmony to both your lives.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Some Things You Should Know About Media Violence and Media Literacy
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Mental Health Information Center: Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General (A print version of this study was released in 2001.)
Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit, July 26, 2000: American Academy of Pediatrics

Parent’s Prevention Primer—Risk and Protective Factors

January 8, 2008

You try to keep your kids healthy, right? You make sure they get enough sleep, eat fruits and vegetables, and brush their teeth. Prevention is key to keeping your child well. When it comes to alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, drug preventon measures—also called “protective factors”—can help keep your child from using substances.

In contrast, risk factors are like red flags that can warn you about possible dangers in your child’s future—and help you prevent those dangers.

A child deals with many types of risk and protective factors at home, in school, and in his neighborhood. The more risk factors a child faces, the more likely he is to have substance abuse and related problems as a teen or young adult. And the reverse is true; with more protective factors at work, a child is more likely to make healthy decisions.

Protective Factors
Parents can provide one of the most important protective factors: a strong family bond. When you and your children hang out and have fun together, you develop a sense of closeness and trust and help strengthen family ties. Time together also gives you a chance to share your values and expectations about different topics, including substance use. If you let your child know up front that you don’t approve of using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, your child is less likely to use them.

Research shows that parental influence is a primary reason that youth don’t do drugs, so speak up and let your children know where you stand.

Risk Factors
Many types of risk factors are rooted in a child’s family life. Would it surprise you to learn that parents’ permissiveness is a bigger factor in teenage drug use than is peer pressure?

Research shows that children whose parents who don’t use fair and consistent discipline are more likely to be at greater risk for drug-taking behavior.

Making rules, explaining the need for them, and enforcing them consistently are important. Parents need to establish regularly enforced rules to guide their children in developing daily habits of self-discipline.

Risk and Protective Factors in Your Family’s Regular Routine
You have a chance to improve many of your child’s protective factors every day. Start by spending time together—eat dinner together, go for a walk, drive to the mall, play board games, or do other activities that you and your child can enjoy together. Like the steps you take to keep your child’s body healthy, a solid relationship with you can help protect her from substance use and help keep her well in body, mind, and spirit.