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2003 Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

How to keep your teen off drugs: Leading Child Psychologist Provides Valuable Advice to Parents

For Immediate Release: November 19, 2003- Toronto - Dr. David A. Wolfe is a leading child psychologist and he knows that open communication with your teen is the most effective way to ensure that your teen makes healthy choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol. As a father of two teens himself, he knows that this is easier said than done. Yesterday the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released a survey about the prevalence of drug use of Ontario students and today Dr. David Wolfe, who is the RBC Investments Chair in Children's Mental Health and Development Psychopathology at CAMH, has some valuable advice for parents on how to talk to their teens so that they don't become a statistic.

"Early to mid-adolescence is a time when new demands and pressures are greatest for youth to try on new lifestyles and interests, and involvement in risk behaviours such as smoking, substance use and sexual behaviour may begin," Wolfe says. "One of the best ways to reduce the risk of harm during this period is to assist youth in forming healthy relationships with their peers, parents and dating partners. Parents should focus on helping teens make healthy choices while their child is navigating these critical developmental minefields."

Dr. Wolfe explains that the most important thing for parents to convey to their teens is that you want them to be safe, which implies that teens share in the responsibility to be knowledgeable, have good judgement and make safe personal choices. "Think harm reduction, not zero tolerance when it comes to experimentation with adult privileges" he says. "It is unrealistic to assume that teens won't experiment, and parents who try to enforce zero tolerance often come into conflict with their teen or they are shut out and kept in the dark."

Dr. Wolfe's approach to parenting teens and adolescents is based on personal experience and clinical expertise, and is summarized in 10 tips to building healthy relationships available on CAMH's website.

He explains that parents should recognize that this is a time when teens are expected to form close relationships with their friends, while seeking the important goal of greater independence from their family. These tips give advice on how to work with adolescents in keeping the lines of communication open.

Dr. Wolfe has been pioneering new approaches to preventing many societal youth problems such as bullying, relationship violence, and substance abuse and strongly advocates that forming healthy relationships with children and adolescents should be a public health priority. He has developed a grade nine curriculum called The Fourth "R" on forming healthy relationships, which is currently being piloted in selected Ontario schools.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is a Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization Collaborating Centre and a teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

For further information or to set up an interview with Dr. David Wolfe please contact:Sylvia Hagopian, Media Relations Coordinator CAMH, at (416) 595-6015.

Advice for parents is available at:

Bio on Dr. David Wolfe available

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