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Front Page » October 2, 2007 » Local News » Family awareness night teaches parents and teens
Published 3,431 days ago

Family awareness night teaches parents and teens

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Young people work on art projects with the help of the teen volunteers. Left to right: Madison Draper, Hanna Huntington, Stephanie Sparkman, Larelan Huntsman and Rachel Rogers.

The first Family Awareness Night was held at the Emery High School. Organizers hope the event will become an annual night to teach both parents and students to be a little more aware of what's going on in today's society and the challenges the young people face today.

Attendees gathered first for a dinner. The young children were entertained in their own classes with crafts and fun activities geared for the very young.

With the young children busy, the teenagers attended classes on dating and how to interact with their parents. The parents attended a large variety of workshops.

Juvenile court Judge Scott Johansen was one of the presenters. He told parents about the juvenile court system and how it works. He told parents there are times when they have done everything they can for a child and the child will still do the wrong thing. "Don't take ownership of that. We are all individuals. You can't compensate for free agency, but don't use that as a cop out. You still need to take your responsibility as a parent. I have seen some parents so distraught when they have done all they could. I have been a juvenile court judge for 15 years. We deal with two areas, delinquency which is criminal activity and juvenile crimes and we deal with abuse and neglect cases. These abuse and neglect cases focus on the parents and deal typically with younger children. When I started this job, 60 percent of the cases I handled were delinquency and 40 percent child welfare. That has now shifted and 85 percent of the cases are child welfare. We are doing pretty well. Overall crime rates are down. We are seeing minor infractions like alcohol, tobacco and truancy. We took a strong stand on juvenile delinquency. The prior judge was a nice old man. I am not a nice old man. The legislature also pumped some money into the juvenile court system," said Judge Johansen.

Judge Johansen believes part of the increase in child welfare cases stems from the methamphetamine addiction crisis facing our society, "It is a scourge in society," commented the Judge. Young mothers with small children are the worst abusers of the drug. He said there aren't as many meth labs around any more because the drugs coming into the county are cheaper than those that can be produced here. The product tends to be cleaner, but also stronger and extremely addictive. In a situation where parents are addicted to drugs, the court moves in to protect the children. Children exposed to drug use are at extreme health risks.

Visitors make their way around several information booths set up in the gym.

Another presenter Les Harris spoke about taking the stress out of discipline. He focused on helping parents be aware of what's going on with their children. He told parents they don't need to provide their children with every gadget that comes out. They are to be parents, providing your children with everything is irresponsible. He wanted parents to be aware of Ipods, body piercings, cell phone use, texting and other new gadgets.

"The better your relationship with your kids the less likely they will have problems," said Harris. He also spoke about the kinds of music kids are listening to. Some of the music sends a bad message. Some of it contains explicit lyrics about sex and violent behavior. "Educate your children about the messages. Teach them a good moral code about what is right and what is wrong. Teach them to make right choices. Fads will come and go, but teach correct principles and them let them decide within reason. Don't be afraid to address the messages of the songs. I don't want MTV teaching my children about sexuality. Awareness and involvement will keep you better prepared. If you're afraid to talk to your kids, these things can become real problems. Be prepared to talk to your kids. Be aware of the acronyms they use while texting. Educate yourself. The risk to kids these days is a lot greater than in the past. Sixty percent of kids have their pictures out on the internet. Be aware of your risks, we have two sex offenders on our block. Make your kids aware of these things. The kids most at risk are those who are unaware and uninformed about sex offenders.

"When children are young they are celebrated. We celebrate their first word, their first step. No matter what ages your kids are, see them in invaluable ways. Celebrate them. Look at the opportunities. Don't stop celebrating your children when they reach adolescence. Adolescence is a tumultuous time. Our children become fertile. They begin to see themselves in a different way. Girls develop about 18 months faster than boys. When they hit puberty their complex thinking skills advance. They think they are self reliant, they still need you, but they just don't want you to know they do. Peer acceptance is the center of their universe. They want to form a separate identity. They become self conscious and will spend a lot of time on appearance," said Harris.

KC Jones presented the workshop on healthy dating. She encouraged participants to talk things out with their dates and discuss any issues or conflicts. Make time to talk about things and take time to cool down if needed. Choose a safe time and place to talk. Know what you want to accomplish with your conversations. Resolve conflicts. "Sometimes people fight over small issues, when there is really an underlying bigger issue that's not being talked about. Work together for solutions. Don't accept excuses if you are with an abusive person. There is no excuse for abuse. An abusive person tries to blame someone else for their behavior. Tell someone if you are in an abusive relationship," said Jones. She also gave numbers to call if you need help with domestic violence situations. Kathy at Four Corners can be reached at 381-4743.

They also discussed cheap dating ideas which included: ice blocking, bike riding, campfires, hikes in the mountain, sporting events, etc.

Parents participate in the family awareness night at Emery High.

Carrie Jensen and Ryann Alvritton presented Internet Safety guidelines.

Kyle Elder presented the workshop how to manipulate your parents. Some of the teens in the workshop said sometimes their parents don't believe them when they are telling the truth. Elder said, the truth will prevail and to be respectful to parents and not defensive and the truth will come out. Parents are supposed to take care of you and set limits and boundaries. "Don't go there, Don't wear that blouse, etc." Teenagers don't like it, but loving you is setting limits. There is a quote that if kids don't think you care, then they won't care what you think. It's the kids job to listen and to learn to do things you don't want to do when you don't want to do them. As adults life is filled with things you don't want to do. Why do you do it? Responsibility. When you become an adult there is more than just you. Adults try to meet the needs of others. One day my daughter was mad at me and said she hated me and called me names. I sat down and wrote a song for my daughter and played it for her," said Elder.

"I often wonder if you feel my love for you. I get down on my knees and pray for you. I try hard to teach you what my parents taught me. My love shines bright like the sun. Go where you want, think what you may, but I'll never go away," sang Elder.

"Treat each other with respect, your parents are making your lives miserable because they love you," said Elder.

Another workshop was held on drugs in our area and harmful affects from drug addiction. Sgt. Tom Harrison said, "When people smoke marijuana their judgment goes out the window. I was working as an ironworker one time and at lunch two guys smoked a marijuana cigarette and after lunch he just walked off the edge of the iron. It doesn't just affect you, it affects everyone else too. Prescription drugs are an epidemic. They are widely abused. When you have a prescription, take as the doctor prescribes, when you are done if there are any pills left, then flush them. Get rid of them or you can call the sheriff's office to dispose of them. Oxycontin, Lortab, percocet, they are considered the poor man's heroin. Oxycontin was originally developed for terminal cancer patients. It's strong. One pill goes for $80 on the street. People start out with a legitimate use and then they get hooked. They are good people making bad choices. They let drugs take over lives. They self-medicate themselves and the body builds up a tolerance.

"One guy had a prescription for five Lortabs and doctored the prescription to look like 50, the pharmacy called us and we tracked this guy down within an hour and he had already taken seven pills when we picked him up. If people drive all the way from East Carbon to Castle Dale to get prescriptions, that sends up a red flag. People will stake out the pharmacies and see who goes in and out. We have had people follow them home from the pharmacy and steal their prescriptions. Sometimes people put up signs to welcome new babies home and then that home is targeted. You need to be careful, who you talk to. If you have an operation, sometimes you'll tell someone and they'll know you have medication and you can become a target that way. You're not doing friends and family members any favors, if you don't get them some help. This drug addiction affects every walk of life.

Kyle Elder plays the song he wrote for his daughter.

"Lock your doors, these people are desperate, but they don't want to get caught. These people will just clean out medicine cabinets and then sort through the pills later. If you take prescription drugs and then drive, you can get arrested for DUI. Lock up your pills, and report it if they are stolen. If we get continued reports of stolen drugs from the same people, we look into it and sometimes they were abusing drugs.

"In 2007 so far there have been four accidental drug overdoses. If you get hooked on meth, you will either end up dead or in jail. With meth, it's an appetite suppressant and the young mothers use it. They can stay up and clean the house, but pretty soon the desire for meth becomes more important than the kids and the house. Meth use deteriorates their teeth and it contains impurities. People get meth bugs, and feel like bugs are crawling on them and they scratch themselves until they get large sores. Meth comes in from Mexico. Drug dealers don't have to go out and peddle it, the customers come to them. User's eyes are yellow, they have liver problems. It's really addictive, it is a white crystal and it's about $35-40 for a quarter of a gram. It's really dangerous for children to be in houses with meth use. Their bodies can absorb the drugs from the air. It also contaminates their food. Meth lab houses need a total cleanup before anyone can live there including pulling down sheetrock.

"We are also seeing a come back of cocaine in our area. Heroin is coming back. Ecstasy, the rave party drug, dehydrates users and you'll see a lot of bottled water at those events. We have a tip line 381-2888 where you can call in anonymous tips. We need quite a bit of evidence for a search warrant to be issued," said Sgt. Harrison.

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