The story behind Red Ribbon Week is almost as extraordinary as the events and opportunities the celebration includes.
On February 7, 1985 Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an undercover DEA agent was kidnapped and tortured to death. Camarena, a representative of the “American Dream” had begun his life with nothing and chose to dedicate his life to making a difference in the world. His intelligence and determination paid off for him. He earned his college degree, served in the Marines and eventually chose a life of service as a police officer. He later joined the DEA.
Several weeks after Camarena’s untimely demise a friend of Camarena, Duncan Hunter, a Congressman in California a campaign as a tribute to his friend. He started a club whose main focus was to live drug-free lives. The members wore red badges to honor the sacrifices of men like Camaena. And thus began the campaign which we now call ‘Red Ribbon Week.’
Red Ribbon Week is acknowledged as the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Research backs the efforts of Red Ribbon Week. It has been shown that kids are less likely to use drugs if they are educated about the risks and dangers involved. In addition, kids whose parents who talk with them about the dangers of drugs are less likely to engage in substance use.
While the events and information offered during such events as Red Ribbon Week are making an obvious impact on drug-prevention, in reality, it is parents who have the greatest influence over their kids regarding prevention and intervention. Talking with teens about drug use can at times be trying. It is important to understand it is not what you say, but how you say it that can make all the difference.
Here are some suggestions on how to discuss the issue with your teens:
1.) Don’t talk at them, talk with them. Engage your kids in an interactive discussion. Find out what they know and what they think.
2.) Be informed and informative. It is important for parents to educate themselves before attempting to talk to their kids. Do you know about ‘Triple C,’ Salvia, and the sudden use of ‘bath salts?’ Thank goodness for the internet!
3.) Look for conversation starters. If there has been a recent incident at the high school, ask your kids what they know and think about the situation. Engage your kids by discussing interesting topic related articles in the newspaper or magazines that you have read. Make sure to listen to what they have to say. When you demonstrate your interest in their opinions you empower them because you send the message that you respect their thoughts and opinions.
4.) Practice what you preach. Discussing the perils of drinking with a martini in your hand is clearly not the way to go. Kids learn much of what they know through observational learning.
5.) Being the ‘cool’ (aka permissive) parent can only lead to trouble. Research indicates that kids who were permitted to drink and/or do drugs (e.g. smoke pot) are more likely to have substance abuse problems than kids whose parents do not permit such behavior.
The story behind Red Ribbon Week reaffirms that with organization and commitment, we can make a difference, one child at a time.