"Let's lead and not follow. You're the leader."
We're just days away from the start of school, and one big issue on a lot of parents' minds: peer pressure.
From elementary school all the way to college, kids face a lot of peer pressure. For our back to school family, the McCoys - mom has a clear message!
"Let's lead and not follow. You're the leader." That's what mother of nine Trelawney McCoy tells her children.
Her daughter Imani will be a seventh grader this year at School No. 58. Imani told Messenger Post's news partner, News10NBC about one big issue at school - drugs.
"This one boy who brought weed into the school - he got long term, but he still did ISS for a week or two weeks for bringing drugs into the school because he tried to get his friends - he tried to sell some to his friends," said Imani McCoy.
According to government statistics, about 6% of kids in 8th grade are using drugs across the country. That number jumps up to nearly a quarter of kids by the 12th grade.
"Many parents are like, 'Are you smoking marijuana?' but I feel there's so much more going on beyond marijuana," said Nolica Murray-Fields from the Center for Youth.
Murray-Fields says the opioid epidemic is impacting schools across our area - with kids taking pills from their parents. She told News10NBC about "Skittles Parties."
"You throw whatever meds you have. It's different colors. You get the visual Skittles, and you pick one and pop it," explained Murray-Fields.
Vaping is also a big concern. Some kids are using e-cigarettes with hemp oil. When it comes to alcohol, officials with the Centers for Disease Control say excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.
So what should parents watch out for?
"Paying attention to your kids," said Murray-Fields. "Are they acting differently? Their social circles. Is it different? Are grades changing?"
Murray-Fields says communication is key, and you should be asking your kids questions.
"Who are you looking forward to see when you got back to school? Who are you not looking forward to see? Is there a teacher? What's your favorite teacher? Those kinds of questions because they give you insight," explained Murray-Fields.
With all the peer pressure in school, Trelawney McCoy makes sure to tell her kids, "Don't follow the trend. Set the trend. Just because everybody else is doing it, it don't make it right."
It's also important to pay attention to your kids' social media accounts. Murray-Fields says that's where a lot of bullying and peer pressure starts. Make sure you know what apps your kids use, and who they're associating with.