Christy Crandell participates in a campaign to teach about cough medicine abuse.

Christy Crandell wants you to know something.

Her son served prison time for armed robbery — something he did while under the influence of over-the-counter cough medicine.

“It was something I completely missed when my kids were growing up,” she said. “We had no idea about cough medicine abuse.” She doesn’t want you to miss the same thing.

Think about it. Cough medicine. So easy to get, right there in your own medicine cabinet. “Parents sometimes don’t understand how serious it can get,” she said. “It’s so accessible and if you don’t know about it, you’re not doing anything to safeguard.”

Unfortunately, Crandell isn’t the only mother who discovered these amazing facts about cough medicine. And so she is helping get the word out, partly through a campaign called #tomyteen during this, National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month.

The hashtag crusade is aimed to show our teens that we think they are pretty awesome. It sounds obvious, but it’s important to remember that teens who are validated and appreciated by their parents are much less likely to fall to bad peer pressure.

Parents are looking for positive ways to interact with teens, rather than lecture or punish them, said Scott Melville, the CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. He said CHPA’s members started hearing that cough medicine was being abused, particularly by teens, starting about 10 years ago. One in 25 teens abuses cough medicine, he said. “That’s one kid in every classroom.”

The big issue here, said Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and mother of four boys, is that “as parents, we’re never going to be standing there next to them when they are facing a decision that has serious consequences.”
She offers three things you can do to help kids faced with peer pressure or the desire to just give something like this a try:

Don’t leave any subject off limits.
If you don’t tell your kids what your views are, they will only listen to popular culture or peers. They should get to hear what we think. You want them to know that you know what they are facing.

You should be trustworthy. Live the values you talk about. If you think texting and driving is a dangerous thing to do, you have to actually not text and drive yourself. If you want your child to call you when they are in a bad spot socially, you have to actually make yourself available so they know they have a safe place to land. Tell them, Gilboa said, “I know you’ve told me that there won’t be drinking at this party. But if there is and you find yourself in a bad spot, call me and you won’t get in trouble.” And then mean it when they call.

Help your teen understand what you value about them. Let them know you are impressed, not just that they’re on the winning team, but that they work well together in a group. That they try hard. “When we admire our kids’ actions with specificity and character with specificity, we [show that we] understand their value,” she said. That’s how to build a child’s self-confidence. And that helps them to not go along with the group, she said. There is a straight line from telling a teen that they are kind, for example, and when someone says “Let’s jump off a bridge” and they’ll say “No, I’m good.”

So hashtag your way to your kids’ heart, talk to them about things like cough medicine abuse. Show them you know what’s up in their lives. And when they are just walking through the house, and maybe expecting you to tell them to pick up their clothes yet again, just say something like: “Hey, you’re a good guy.” And leave it at that.

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