During the pandemic, it’s important to model healthy behaviors for kids
Alcohol sales rose 14 percent in Vermont in March compared to last year’s numbers, according to the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery. While the closure of bars and restaurants likely contributed to this number, media reports show a growing attitude that drinking alcohol, smoking pot, or using other mood-altering substances are acceptable ways to pass the time or numb feelings of anxiety during the pandemic.
All of these factors can create a culture of acceptance towards drug and alcohol use, according to Melanie Sheehan, Substance Misuse Prevention Program Manager at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. Sheehan advises parents to avoid emphasizing or joking about substance use as a way to cope with the stress caused by the crisis.
Instead, she says, “Show your kids healthy ways to manage difficult emotions. If you’re feeling stressed, play loud music and dance, or spend some time outside by going for a walk. Share your feelings around this challenging situation—don’t joke about drowning those sorrows with a glass of wine.” She also added, “Kids don’t need to see their parents trying to be perfect. There is tremendous value in parents showing vulnerability and how they deal with it in healthy ways.”
With kids home 24/7, it’s also more important than ever, Sheehan says, for parents to make sure the home is a safe environment. Part of safety means decreasing access to alcohol, marijuana, vape products, and prescription medications in the home. Parents can secure these products where youth can’t get to them.
April’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day—in which people throughout the US discard unused or expired medications at locations in their communities—was canceled because of the pandemic. However, prescription medication drop boxes at police stations may still be open – the public is advised to call stations to check availability and times. Additionally, Vermonters can request free prescription drug mail-back envelopes from the Vermont Dept. of Health website [www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal].
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center’s Tobacco Treatment Specialist Sarah Doyle reports many families are, in fact, using the pandemic to refocus on healthy behaviors. Doyle, who usually offers Vermont Quits one-on-one appointments onsite at MAHHC, has switched to an online format due to COVID-19. She encourages those interested to contact her for face-to-face Zoom sessions at (802) 674-7089.
“More people are participating because they feel more comfortable in their own homes, and they don’t have to worry about the hassle of finding transportation to an appointment,” Doyle says. She plans to continue online sessions even once the pandemic has passed.
To find a prescription drop box near you, visit: healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal or call 2-1-1
To find a Tobacco Quit Coach in Vermont, visit: 802quits.org
To learn about healthy coping strategies for families, watch the Windsor-based show For Your Health: Helping Families Through the Coronavirus Public Health Crisis