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The Grandkids Are Coming! The Grandkids are Coming!

June 06, 2014  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

Falmouth has a year-round population of more than 30,000 and as a popular retirement destination upwards of 10,000 of these residents are seniors, many of whom are grandparents.

With school vacations starting in the next several weeks, many of us can expect a summer filled with family visits. Along with stocking the refrigerator and pantry, doing lots of laundry, and having sand tracked throughout your house, grandparents also need to pay close attention to their grandchildren’s (especially teenagers) behavior to assure a healthy and fun summer. 

During the summer months there is a significant increase in substance abuse including alcohol, marijuana, and misuse of prescription pills among teens and young adults. As a grandparent, it’s important for you to be aware of these risks and how to provide a safe environment for your grandchildren.

It’s Your House, You Make the Rules 

When your grandchildren visit, either with or without their parents, it’s important that you establish some ground rules for the duration of the visit. If your teen or college-aged grandchild wants to have a party or invite some friends over for a barbecue, remember that it’s against the law for you to provide alcohol for anyone under age 21. 

Use Teachable Moments

When watching television together or going to a movie, use the context to discuss some of the issues that come up, especially around underage drinking, drug abuse, and teenage sex. There has been a lot of discussion in the media about marijuana legalization and sharing with your grandchildren that pot is dangerous for the developing brain is appropriate. Since many grandparents are “boomers” and experienced the drug culture in the 1960’s don’t be surprised to get questions about your own drug use, especially marijuana. It’s okay to be honest about your experience and explain that we have learned a lot about the dangers of pot over the years and that the marijuana available now is much more potent.

Lock Your Meds

Every day, more than 2,500 teenagers misuse a prescription medication for the first time. Prescription pills, especially narcotic painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin, are widely abused by teens and are a gateway to heroin, which is cheaper and more potent. Some 70 percent of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them from a family member or friend.

Being seniors, grandparents are more likely to have multiple prescriptions, including narcotics to treat pain from a recent surgical or dental procedure. Keeping your medications on the kitchen counter or other open area invites abuse and thefts. Prevent your grandchildren from abusing your prescription medications by securing them in places they cannot access. 

Purchase a medication lock box to safeguard your medications. These boxes are available at local pharmacies. If you have unused or expired medications, get rid of them at the drug disposal kiosk in the lobby of the Falmouth Police Department. The unit is available 24 hours a day, every day. You can dispose of your medications whenever it is convenient for you. The process is anonymous, and there is no paperwork.

The Power of Grandparents

It’s important to remember that the majority of teens and young adults do not abuse drugs or alcohol. However, our grandkids live in a highly stressful world of academics, peer pressure, and instant communication. Some teens and young adults deal with this pressure by turning to alcohol and drugs, and some develop anxiety, depression, and self-abusive behaviors. All of this can be confusing to grandparents.

While parents are generally recognized as the most important influence on their children, grandparents have a close and special bond with their grandkids. This unique relationship provides an ideal opportunity for you to share, connect and discuss many important topics with your grandchildren—including the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE

The Partnership highly recommends that grandparents read the online guide: The Power of Grandparents. Find out how to communicate better with your teenage grandchild; learn about the latest drugs; and discover how you can help keep your grandchild healthy. 

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