I am new kindergarten mom. I believe in community and wanted to become involved right away. I got lucky and became the coordinator for Red Ribbon Week (RRW). I had a lot to learn, because although RRW has been around since 1980, I really didn't know much about it. I am finding that many people either do not know what it is or they just don't know its importance.
I stood in front of the school today to get people to write on red ribbons a "Making Healthy Choices" message. Some people were enthusiastic and thankful. But most were not. I admit I resorted to guilt to get people to do it, singing sweetly, "You're child will not end up on crack if you do it..."
Also, when preparing for RRW, I asked for volunteers. There are 600+ students at the school and about five parents offered to help.
The compassionate part of me trusts that everybody is generally good, and that perhaps they were busy or something. However, the Healing Vigilante in me sees that parents are not doing enough to spread the movement of RRW, which has to do with raising healthy-minded, conscious children, with a strong sense of self. It is just as, or more, important then getting them to dance or soccer. Maybe even English or Math.
When I was doing time as a therapist in a women's prison program, I learned a lot about drugs. This program was for women who committed drug-related crimes. They were given this opportunity to rehabilitate in lieu of a prison sentence. On top of that, their children were allowed to live with them. So, not only did I get to see the result of poor choices, I got to see the influence a parent can have on a young child when it comes to making healthy choices.
I can tell you with certainty that these women were not taught the messages that RRW shares, and they struggled with knowing what to teach their children. I believe if they were given the opportunity to learn about healthy choices, and self-love, they would not have ended up addicted to drugs.
The Red Ribbon Campaign has an incredible mission. But the only way that it can be executed is by parental participation. I am going to trust that parents just need awareness. So, as the Healing Vigilante, here are 7 Things Parents Need to Know About Red Ribbon Week:
1. It's not just about drugs. It is about making healthy choices and being kind to yourself and others. It's about self-respect, consciousness, and having enough self-confidence to make a healthy choice when faced with adversity such as peer pressure, and/or using drugs or alcohol.
2. It teaches about making healthy choices. If I were to reverse engineer why the inmates ended up addicted, I would see they never learned about making a healthy choice. Consciously teaching your child about what it means to make a healthy choice is incredibly powerful. It is never about the content of the choice, it is about the process of how they make it. Parents are the ones that need to teach that.
3. It teaches about being yourself. This is RRW's most powerful message. If I were to go back even further in these inmate's lives, I would see they didn't learn about self-respect, self-love, or what it means to have a strong sense of self. Being yourself has to do with individuality, trust in one's self, and belief that you are valuable in this world. Of all the lessons a parent teaches, this is the most important. I trust if I teach my daughters to have a strong sense of self, then they will always do well in life.
4. Parents need to practice too. For RRW, we had several themes: be kind, breathe and let it out, get up and move, and be yourself. In elementary school, kids are deep in their formative years. They are looking to their parents (all adults actually) to model for them. This is where parents need to be accountable (insert MJ's Man in the Mirror here). They need to be aware of, and practicing, what RRW is teaching. If I were to go back to the origin of why the inmates ended up addicted to drugs, I would see that the role model they had was weak. That's why it's important for us to practice and demonstrate for our children what is healthy. That doesn't mean we're perfect. It means we demonstrate accountability and humility when we make a mistake; that we demonstrate kindness to ourselves, and others. It means we slow down and breathe; and give ourselves permission to express in a healthy way when upset.
5. Parents need to teach and reinforce. Parents are usually the problem. Boom, I said it. When I see a child in counseling, there's a clear connection between what the parent is teaching and how the child is acting. During RRW, we hand out bracelets, ribbons, and hang up posters. The principal is making daily announcements (and rap videos). None of this matters unless it is being continuously reinforced and re-taught consistently at home.
6. It is more than one week. RRW is a campaign -- a movement. It is a decision to be a part of a conscious, positive lifestyle.
7. Teamwork means everything. I'm looking forward to being a part of the school community, finding like minds, helping to increase awareness of RRW, and the importance of raising emotionally strong children. Not to sound all kumbaya-ish but, together, we can make a difference.
Bottom line: Parents need to step up. Get more involved in your child's emotional health. We all need to, as a community.
Speaking of great leadership, the principal and I collaborated on this Red Ribbon Rap. I wrote the rap and thought he'd put on a ball cap and a disco ball. Well, he really exceeded my expectations. For a great message, executed awesomely, click here.