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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

GUEST COLUMN: Dealing with the "real world" of drugs and alcohol

John H. Weicker
John H. Weicker
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, April 20, 2017 01:22 pm

I read with interest the editorial (”Message sent: Yes, you will stay sober at the prom”) that was printed in the March 24 News-Sentinel, and I thought it was well-written and sent a much-needed message to kids and their parents.

I feel that the South Gibson School Corporation should be congratulated on their approach to trying to give young people another excuse to “Just say No,” to consuming alcohol prior to future school-sponsored events. The school corporation cannot, of course, do this on their own. They need the help of parents who understand the importance of their responsibility to be especially observant of their children.

After reading your editorial, and having dealt first-hand with this problem for so many years (the 13 years that I served as dean of boys at Northrop High School, and the 22 years that I was in charge of security for Fort Wayne Community Schools), I could not help but think of several attempts that I had personally pursued over the years to impress on parents the importance of this problem and the necessity for them to honestly address the fact that their own children may, in fact, be involved in using alcohol and or drugs.

One of my first attempts in trying to help parents understand “the real world,” was an open letter that I had written for the Northrop PTA during the 1986-1987 school year. That letter was printed as a guest column in The News-Sentinel on Feb. 14, 1987. It was entitled, “Drug problem is not somewhere else.” During my 11th year as dean of boys (the 1988-1989 school year), I attempted once again to help. I wrote my thoughts down in a small handout for parents: “Weicker’s Words of Wisdom.” 

I am one who has always felt that each and every one of us owes it to be the very best we can be with every single second that we have on earth. In that vein, after I read your editorial, and because I honestly believe that the advice I gave to parents in the  “Weicker’s Words of Wisdom,” is as valid today as it was back in 1989, and could continue to be of help to parents, I decided to contact you.

Over these many years, I have continued to provide it to people who I felt that it might help – people who were trying to be good parents to their children, but were having difficulty with the drug and alcohol issues that their kids were having to deal with. On occasion, I continue to give it to people who I come in contact with while I have continued to serve as a Due Process Hearing Examiner for FWCS (I have presided over expulsion hearings for the school system since retiring in 2013). I have repeatedly been told that I should try to make it available to more people. While I have never personally felt that the ideas that I put forth are  rocket science, it sure does seem to continue to cause a lot of problems between parents and their teenage kids, and so many parents just don’t seem to get it.

Following are excerpts from “Words of Wisdom”:

1. First, you absolutely must face the fact that it is possible that your child is using illegal drugs and alcohol. Every statistic and study that I have seen supports that real possibility.

3. You must start early. Education about alcohol and drugs can and does work if started young enough (pre-school and elementary grades) and if reinforced by you as the child develops. However, if you have neglected education and honest information in the elementary years and suddenly have to face the problem that your child is, in fact, involved with drugs and alcohol in middle school or high school, then from my experience, education by itself will not work.

3. Make your children prove to you that they are not involved with illegal drugs or alcohol. Don’t believe anything! If I had children, they would know that because I loved them I would not take anything I was told at face value. In fact, simply because you tell me that “Joe’s parents” will be there, or that you are going to the “game,” I’m not necessarily going to believe it. I would check for myself. You will have to earn my trust and belief in you over and over again, because I love you and want to see you grow up drug and alcohol free. What’s wrong with that?

John H. Weicker is a resident of Woodburn.

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