While in Austin the week of July 16-21 for a County Attorney training course, I was alarmed to find out just how prevalent drug use is among our children. And what is even more alarming is that drugs are not only being used by our teenagers, but by our pre-teens as well, down to and including our grade school children. It is amazing how large of a role parents actually play in our children’s decision whether or not to give in to peer pressure and use drugs. As parents, we must take an active, rather than proactive or reactive role in educating our children and preventing them from using illegal drugs. How can you become more involved’ There are many different ways which you can positively influence your child in his or her decision when faced with whether or not to use drugs. Start early. It is never to early to prevent your children from trying drugs. Building protective factors, such as letting your child know you care, with even the youngest children, plays an important role in protecting them from drugs. Connect with your children. Build lines of communication and do things as a family. Spend time together’eat dinner, read together, play a game, attend services. Show that fun doesn’t require drugs. Listen to your children. Take a more active interest in what is going on in your child’s life. Listen to their cares and concerns. Know what they are up to’what parties are they going to, with whom, what will be served/available. Educate your children. Take time to explain to your children how drugs can hurt them and destroy their dreams. What you teach your children has an impact on them. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), 45 percent of young people who smoked marijuana in the past year say they learned nothing about the risks of marijuana use from their parents. And, only 27 percent of young people who smoked marijuana in the last year say they learned about the risks from their parents. Spend at least a few minutes each day telling and showing your children that you care. Make sure they know you care that they are drug-free. Explain to your child that you are always there for them’no matter what happens. Make sure that they know to come to you first for help or information. The extended family plays a major role in influencing a child’s life. The fact of the matter is that parents make a difference. According to the ONDCP, 65 percent of children ages 13 to 17 say that a great risk of marijuana use is that it would upset their parents, and 80 percent of children ages 13 to 17 say that an important reason for not smoking marijuana is that their parents would lose respect for them and pride in their actions. Be aware. Look for the warning signs that your child may be developing a substance abuse problem and get help before the problem occurs. Look for a drop in academic performance; lack of interest in personal appearance; withdrawal, isolation, depression and fatigue; aggressive, rebellious behavior; hostility and lack of cooperativeness; deteriorating relationships with family; change in friends; loss of interest in hobbies and/or sports; change in eating/sleeping habits; evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia (e.g. needles, pipes, papers, lighters); physical changes (e.g. runny nose not from cold, red eyes, coughing, wheezing, bruises, needle marks). Learn about drugs. Children today are sophisticated. In order to educate your child about the danger of drugs, you need to educate yourself first. In many cases, you and your child can learn side-by-side. Set limits on what is acceptable behavior. By doing so, you show your children you care and help guide them to a safer, drug-free future. Declare limits’this family doesn’t do drugs, this family doesn’t hang around people who do drugs. Enforce these limits’if you say no drinking and driving it applies to parents. Be consistent. Get involved. Effective prevention extends beyond the home into the community. Get involved in your community. Ensure that your community’s streets, playgrounds and schools are safe and drug-free. Start or join a community watch group or community anti-drug coalition. Become active in the PTA. Use this break to get involved in your church, synagogue or faith. Be a positive role model and set the standard for them. Young people are as aware of what you do, as much as what you say. Don’t just say the right things, do the right things. Don’t drive drugged or drunk, don’t let your friends drive impaired’set a good example.