What Norwalk Parents Need to Know
On this page, check out our video about teen mental health and substance misuse; get parenting strategies and resources from our monthly newsletter; see our Q&A about keeping kids substance free. We also have a FAQ and more info on our mental health page
How Are Norwalk Families Doing?
1/19/22 Presentation for Parents covering mental health, substance use, LGBTQ awareness, and local resources
Wellness Bulletin for Norwalk Parents
Our Wellness Bulletins are published monthly as blog posts and are included as links in the Superintendent's monthly newsletter. Each issue includes information, strategies and tips for parents, resource lists, and upcoming events.
The Importance of Child-Adult Relationships
1. Parents/guardians are the most important influence on youth development...even though teens may act as though they only listen to their peers! Download free resources like relationship checkups, conversation starters, etc. here.
2. In addition to parents/guardians, all kids need a couple of trusted adults in their lives. These are people who kids can open up to; people who will notice when kids are struggling; people who will help them grow and thrive; people who will love them. Trusted adults may be family members, coaches, teachers, or other mentors.
3. If a child doesn't have a couple of trusted adults in their life, seek out clubs, scouting programs, after-school opportunities, Norwalk Mentor Program, Police Activities League (PAL), faith-based youth groups or other places where they can create those relationships.
4. The Positive Youth Development Framework and Developmental Relationships Framework are both ways of thinking about your child's life and how to help them thrive. See below.
What do I need to know about youth & substance use?
The human brain is still developing until age 25. Alcohol or other drugs can cause IQ loss & damage the developing brain.
For every year that a youth delays having their first drink or drug, they reduce their chance of developing an addiction by 14%.
Most Norwalk teens do not drink alcohol or use other drugs. But in 2018, underage drinking was higher in Norwalk compared to the state average.
Kids who have depression or anxiety are more likely to drink and use other drugs.
If someone under 21 drinks alcohol on your property, even without your knowledge, you are legally responsible. Learn about CT's Social Host Law.
Today's marijuana is engineered to be VERY strong. Kids often vape it from concentrates that are almost pure THC--which can cause psychosis.
Vaping is more dangerous than cigarettes, and many teens are addicted. Big Tobacco is using our kids as a new market, since cigarette use has dropped.
Counterfeit drugs that look like ADHD meds, Xanax, etc. can contain fentanyl! Teach: ONLY use drugs when prescribed to you by a doctor & purchased from a pharmacy.
What should I do if my kid is using drugs?
Go through their room, backpack, clothes, and pockets. Confiscate any drugs you find. (Do not throw drugs in the trash or toilet! Bring to the police station dropbox.)
Talk to them & listen. Why did they do it? How did it start? How do they feel about it? Express concern and disappointment rather than yelling.
Create consequences, and prevent access to drugs. Remove access to money, phone, computer or car. Do not allow your child to spend time alone with their friends who are using drugs. Ground them from attending parties. Require visits to a drug counselor &/or support group.
Set boundaries. Be clear about your family's rules about drugs and alcohol & what to expect if anything happens again.
Connect with school social worker, drug counselor, or School Resource Officer. Ask them to screen your teen for mental health & substance use.
Help your kid engage in healthy social activities such as clubs or volunteer work, and have frequent quality family time at home.
Talk with them frequently about their friends, how they're feeling, how they're coping.
When & how do I talk to my kids about drugs?
It's never too early! Little kids: Teach about healthy vs unhealthy behaviors. Tell them never to eat/drink anything you haven't okayed. All kids: should know never to help themselves to someone else's drinks or pills! And need to practice refusal skills. Teens: Should not leave their drinks unattended at parties.
Most kids are exposed to alcohol or other drugs by middle school. In CT, 12% of students surveyed in 2019 had their first drink of alcohol (more than a few sips) before age 13 and 4% tried marijuana before age 13.
Remember that your kids are watching you! They see what you're drinking and using, and they hear you if you say thing like, "I really need a drink" or "time to really get this party started." Try "I need to take a walk to relax" or "let's turn the music on!"
The Partnership to End Addiction has helpful guides: prevention tips for every age; connecting with your teen; and more.
Family dinners, car rides, and times when you're waiting in line are great opportunities for these conversations. Put phones away during meals & just talk!
How can I protect my kids?
Know your kids' friends & parents. Talk to host parents before letting kids go to parties.
Know where your kids are after school! Keep them busy & social with homework, sports, clubs, and hobbies so they don't experiment with drugs out of boredom.
Check in on their mental health. Drugs are often used to cope with depression or anxiety. Talk openly and encourage self-care and help-seeking. Take a Relationships Quiz here.
Have a code word so your kids can call you for an excuse or ride in a risky situation.
Prevent access to alcohol & drugs. Norwalk teens report that most drinking takes place at people's houses. If kids can't get it or buy it, they are less likely to use it! So:
Keep your liquor and medicine cabinets locked up. We have Liquor Stickers!
Dispose of unused drugs with Deterra bags or drop off at the police station.
Don't save your credit card information on your computer or Amazon account.
Monitor your kids' money. Only give them store gift cards, not Visa gift cards.
Monitor their social media. Snapchat is currently a popular way to buy drugs.
At home, keep doors open and walk past regularly to check on kids' behaviors.
How do I know if my kid is using drugs?
Some teens are using alcohol, marijuana or vapes. (FYI: Vapes can be used for either nicotine or marijuana, with virtually no smell.) Keep an eye out for possible warning signs:
red eyes, heavy eyelids, and/or use of eye drops
smells: smoke, menthol, air freshener or cologne (used as cover up)
changes in eye contact and behavior
urgency in answering the door to get the mail
unexplained purchases via amazon, doordash, etc.
lack of motivation
secrecy or deceit
Consider attending a Hidden in Plain Sight training to learn how kids may hide drugs.
Who can help me as a parent?
Talk to a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor at your child's school or college or contact the School-Based Health Center. If your child is in college, contact the college counseling center for advice.
Check out our Resources page for treatment and support options here in Norwalk for your child.
Join a parent training & support group. If your child is struggling with their mental health, check out NAMI Southwest CT's Child & Adolescent Network and definitely take the NAMI Basics class (it's free!). If your child is dealing with substance use, check out SMART Recovery Family & Friends at Positive Directions, the New Canaan Parent Support Group or The C.A.R.E.S. Group.
Family Activities, Games and More!
The following links are games that explore what happens to the brain and body when drugs are used. You can also find more games here.
NIDA National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge Kahoot!
2021 National Drug & Alcohol IQ Challenge
How Cancel Culture Impacts Teen Mental Health
"Cancel culture—the practice of withdrawing support from individuals or companies who have done or said something offensive—can be helpful in making social change... But when it comes to teenage cancel culture, the negative mental health effects outweigh the positives. Teens are still forming their identities and their beliefs, and they need to be able to learn from their mistakes rather than being punished."