After a year-long hiatus from much of our “normal” life and activities, things finally seem to be returning to a routine for many of us.

Yet, with this return, those of us in the prevention world are starting to get a better idea of the unique challenges that parents of teens have faced over the last year.

When we look at rates for substance use among teens nationwide, the picture that the data paint is complicated. Despite being home and spending more time as a family, substance use for many teens increased over the course of the pandemic. Vaping and alcohol use seem to have been the drugs of choice among teens and young adults. And social media messages and “challenges” on apps like TikTok only added fuel to the fire.

The reality for many families is that, although we were all home more, it did not necessarily mean that kids were monitored all hours of the day. Parents were stretched thin during this pandemic; perhaps more so than ever before. And as we are all re-emerging from this experience burned out and a little frazzled from the collective trauma of the last 14 months- it is time now for us to start picking up the pieces of ourselves and regain some energy to get family life and teen health back on track.

One small way that The Leeward Initiative is looking to tackle this momentous task is through a summer wellness campaign for teens and families. We’re kicking the campaign off in June by emphasizing education. Our educational campaign will focus on parents, and provide information about alcohol, vaping, marijuana and opiates.

We will be sharing messages through the month of June on our Facebook page (“The Leeward Initiative”) and will also provide free parent packets in the lobby at the Health Department (916 Diana St.) with informational materials and freebies.

Our goal for this campaign is to provide information to parents about a variety of substance use topics, so that they feel more equipped to have conversations with their kids.

We are also encouraging parents to download the free TalkSooner app on their smartphone, or visit TalkSooner.org to find more resources that can help them with these conversations. Our campaign will carry through to July and August with new topics and free materials for parents and their kids.

Another project that we’re gearing up for is messaging around driving safe and sober this summer, to prevent accidents and injuries. We’re excited to work with local partners to promote safe ride options and encourage Mason County residents to get a “sober ride for a safe summer.” Stay tuned for more information on this project in the next month.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook to stay in the loop, or reach out if you have questions or want to get involved. Until next time, stay safe, get a sober ride when you need it and talk to your kids early and often.

Katie Miller of the Leeward Initiative can be reached at kmiller@dhd10.org, 231-316-8567

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