What are the kids up to?
Students in grades seven through twelve will be asked about their use of and attitudes toward alcohol, tobacco, drug use, and stress in a survey to be administered next week in Island schools.
The Dukes County Youth Task Force (YTF), a subcommittee of the Dukes County Health Council, formulated the questions.
The data from the survey will be compared to results from three similar surveys conducted over the past seven years to analyze trends in risk behavior. The results of these self-selected surveys cannot be conclusive, but they are revealing nevertheless. Parents may refuse to allow their children to participate, and students may choose not to answer the survey questions, although participation will be anonymous. The survey results will help answer that threshold question that keeps parents of teenagers up at night, namely, Is my kid normal? Of course, the data will help answer many other, perhaps more important questions, for parents, educators, and the community. Good reasons for non-participation are tough to imagine.
"Distinguishing 'normal' teenage behavior - including some defiance, some argument, some lack of communication - from that of a teen in turmoil is not an exact science," Carol Maxym, Ph.D., writing for the Public Broadcasting System's Frontline, writes, surprising no one with a high school age son or daughter. "It is natural for parents to want to see their teen's behavior and attitudes as just a stage, part of growing up, or just the way teens are today. And often parents and professionals confuse one or more symptoms for the problem. For example, parents will blame a new set of friends for leading their teen into bad directions rather than recognizing that their own child is choosing the new friends because they are doing and saying what appeals to your teen. Similarly, parents can blame drugs for their teen's problems, without recognizing that drugs are a symptom of an underlying problem. The best way to determine if your teen may be in or heading towards turmoil is to use your own feelings as a guide ... No teen lives in turmoil without creating some level of turmoil in the world around him or her. Trust your gut. Most parents really do know their teen." Well, yes, but we're always looking for insightful clues wherever we can find them.
The complicated puzzle living upstairs - borrowing the car, ignoring the imposed curfew, talking on the phone for hours, going for days eating nothing but Cheerios, wearing his pants around his thighs so his boxers show, knowing more about Beyonce than the Civil War - is a daily challenge. Knowing that half of your son's peers also dine exclusively on Cheerios can add a measure of reassurance. Learning that your child is out of step with his teenage crowd can sound an important alarm. Surveys such as the one to be conducted next week furnish some of the clues a parent needs.