Parents, guardians and caregivers are encouraged to talk about drugs and alcohol at the dinner table tonight about the dangers of each, what to do if their child is offered drugs, what they will say, how they’ll get out of a difficult situation.
It’s part of the national Night of Conversation tonight, aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of drugs, specifically opioids, but including all drugs, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for Harford County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration, said.
“No government program is as powerful as parents talking to their children,” Mumby said. “That really is at the heart of this program, to encourage parents and caregivers to take one night at the dinner table, sit as a family and talk, make a plan.”
The Night of Conversation, intended for families with children in preschool through high school, is sponsored by the Harford County government, Harford County Public Schools, the Harford County Public Library, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County Health Department, participating restaurants, grocery stores and physicians.
In the last five years, those government agencies as well as others have taken a proactive approach to the opioid epidemic in Harford County, where both fatal and non-fatal overdoses were increasing at an alarming rate.
Both are still on the rise, though the pace of the increases appears to be slowing. As of Monday, 505 people had overdosed in Harford County so far this year, 75 of them fatally.
“Harford County’s Night of Conversation is a time to help your children plan and practice what to do and say when they are offered drugs,” Glassman said. “With your help they will make the right decisions.”
It’s an opportunity for parents to tell their children that if they are at a party and they see drugs and/or alcohol, they will come pick the children up and get them out of a situation they don’t want to be in, Mumby said.
Night of Conversation is an opportunity to find a way to break the ice on that conversation, so the children are prepared for it rather than the child facing a situation and not having thought it through or talked about what the plan would be,” Mumby said.
The conversations ideally are taking place in a safe environment, separate from an incident, at the most comfortable place in the family home, the dinner table, a place where trust is built, Mumby said.
To aid family discussions, the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy has created “conversation cards” and distributed them throughout the community. The cards offer tips for parents including age-appropriate conversation starters. Parents are also encouraged to help their kids practice refusal skills and plan how to escape peer-pressure situations. Last year 70,000 conversation cards were distributed.
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It’s important to start having conversations about addiction and making healthy choices at a young age, Mumby said.
“Kids are exposed at very young ages, unfortunately,” she said. “We hear it reported from our partners in the school system: kids are in environments where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol at very young ages.”
“To raise the issue out of the shadows to become something families talk about regularly, like they talk about a lot of things,” Mumby said. “This will help parents and caregivers build bridges with their kids about a subject that often doesn’t come up until it’s too late.”
And if tonight doesn’t work — multiple kids with multiple events — have the conversation another night, Mumby said. It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it takes place.
Participants in the Night of Conversation can take a short survey about their experiences and enter to win a $100 Visa gift card. Participants can also share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #HarfordTalks.
For links to conversation starters, additional resources and the survey, or to learn more about the Night of Conversation, visit the Harford County government web site or contact the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy at 410-638-3333.