Today begins the 25th annual Red Ribbon Week, a chance for parents and teachers to talk to kids about drugs, drug abuse, and prevention. Red Ribbon Week runs from October 25 through October 31.
Red Ribbon Week, founded in memory of undercover narcotics officer Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, has become an institution in American schools and communities.
These days, red ribbons are most strongly associated with AIDS awareness. For this week, though, they’re being handed out as part of an effort to get kids committed to a drug-free life.
Colorful ribbons for causes have become so ubiquitous we hardly notice them anymore. People’s cars, jackets and purses are crowded with colorful bits of ribbon representing support for everything from cancer suvivors to bullying victims.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to talk to your kid about these red ribbons though. Open dialog with kids about sensitive issues like drug use is one of the best ways to prevent drug abuse and addiction.
Here are some things you can do with your kids to commemorate Red Ribbon Week and get educated about drug abuse prevention:
- Wear a red ribbon. Pin it to your shirt, and let anyone who asks know you care about keeping kids off drugs. You’ll also probably get to field a lot of questions about AIDS Awareness, but hey! They’re both good causes.
- Talk directly with your child about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Don’t be shy, say how you feel about these things.
- Listen to your child’s concerns or experiences as well. These conversations are the cornerstone to a healthy dialog about drugs. At some point, your kid will be offered drugs. Knowing she can talk to you about it may be a lifeline.
- Keep talking. In addition to talking directly about drugs, talk to your kids about the things they care about in their lives. Maybe that’s soccer, or theater or the new boy in their history class. Having a close, open relationship with your kids will help them make healthy choices. It also makes them more likely to turn to you when they’re facing a tough decision.
- Caring relationships are one of three pillars of prevention Red Ribbon Week stresses. The others are high expectations and meaningful participation.
- Learn about the history of Red Ribbon Week. For younger kids, you may want to tone down some of the details. Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was a DEA agent who was tortured and killed while working undercover. Not a fun story, but a compelling one. The inspiring part: after his death, a grassroots movement spread to create “Camarena clubs” in his honor. These groups pledged to live drug-free, and wore red ribbons.
- Take the Red Ribbon Week pledge to live a drug-free life. Hot tip: don’t do this if you’re a recreational drug user. Lying to your kids about drug use will just encourage them to lie to you. Better to be straight about it, and, if it’s a problem, seek help.
- Lock up your meds. You know that bit on the bottle where it says, “Keep out of reach of children”? A lot of teens and pre-teens experiment with recreational use of medications their parents keep around the house. Red Ribbon advocates suggest locking up your pills. Depending on your relationships with your kids, you might also just talk to them about it.
- Engage with your child’s community. Is her school celebrating Red Ribbon Week? Is your town? Making community connections with other families that care about this issue will help strengthen the message.
- Check out the Red Ribbon Coalition’s online training for more ideas about how to keep kids off drugs.
No matter how young or old your children are, there’s a good conversation you can have with them about drugs. For tips on how to start those conversations, check out Parents. The Anti-drug.
Will your kids be taking part in Red Ribbon Week activities? Have you talked about drugs with them yet? How do you plan to?