* Red Ribbon Week Activities Coming to Local Schools

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, and Jenna Bowman, Courier & Press, October 24, 2017 –

Every fall communities and schools around the country honor a week known as Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 to raise awareness of drug abuse and drug-related violence.  Although Red Ribbon Week is now a popular time for theme days and assemblies in schools, it started due to a tragic event.

Enrique “Kiki” Camarena joined the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because he wanted to make a positive impact in the fight against drug abuse.  Unfortunately, in 1985 Agent Camarena was taken and brutally murdered by drug traffickers.

In response to Agent Camarena’s death, people in his community began to wear red ribbons to honor his memory.  Because of anger and concern about what drug involvement was doing to their community, groups gathered to raise awareness, and from these groups Red Ribbon Week was born.

Not only does Red Ribbon Week honor the memory of Agent Kiki Camarena, it continues the battle against illegal drugs and helps educate communities about the associated dangers.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention and awareness program in the United States.  Raising awareness on this topic is increasingly important, because studies now show that 10.6 percent of youths 12-17 years old are currently using some form of illicit drugs.

This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated from October 23-31.  The theme for this year is “Your future is key, so stay drug free.”  The theme encourages youths to think about where they want to be in life and how staying drug free will help achieve their goals.

The purpose of the week is to educate and get the conversation started on how to say no to drugs.  Participating in Red Ribbon Week activities provides the opportunity for students to join together and take a stand against illegal substances.

A dedicated group of students at Evansville’s Thompkins Middle School has worked hard to plan a great Red Ribbon Week.  They will be sharing statistics during the morning announcements to educate their schoolmates on the dangers of drug abuse.  This group helped find the information and statistics for this article. They did an amazing job planning the week!

Thompkins Middle School will look slightly different during this week because the students will be dressing up for theme days to actively demonstrate that they are saying no to drugs.  Thompkins will kick off the week with a “We are Head- to-Toe Drug Free” theme.  Later in the week, students will be dressing up in Hawaiian-themed clothing for “Lei off Drugs” day!

Thompkins Middle School will not be the only school getting into the spirit for Red Ribbon Week, so be on the lookout for activities at a school near you!

* Five No-Phone Zones – Are Cell Phones Coming Between Us and Our Family?

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 18, 2017 –

We all know cell phones and other electronic devices are here to stay, but do they have to come between us and our family? How do we balance the use of electronic devices and time with family?

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices as it is for our children to disconnect. So I’ve broken down some areas where cell phone and other electronic use can be specifically challenging.

Let’s talk about those five zones:

1. Bedrooms – Years ago, pediatricians recommended no televisions in bedrooms, and now we also include other types of electronic devices. To encourage sleep, charging phones across the room versus the nightstand will decrease the chances of checking that phone one last time. Having children charge cell phones and other devices in their parents’ room may also cut down on late-night conversations with friends.

2. At the table – If your family eats dinner together at the table, it’s great to have a rule for everyone that this is family time and to “unplug.”  This goes for parents, too!

3. Reading a Book – It’s difficult to truly get into a book if we’re going back-and-forth from reading to checking e-mail or looking at other applications on our electronic devices.  If you want to read more books or you are trying to get some family reading time in, you might allow e-readers, but keep other screens at a distance.

5. In the car – Of course screen time in a vehicle during a long trip is helpful, but limiting the amount of time would provide an opportunity for family discussions. Some of the most unguarded conversations take place when parents are chauffeuring, so it’s worth trying to limit screen time in the vehicle.  As far as car use by parents, of course texting while driving is not recommended and in many states is against the law.  If children know you do not text and drive, they will learn this is expected practice in your family.

So what now? Make sure everyone is on the same page by developing a family electronic-use plan that works for your family.

One step in my family’s plan is no cell phone use while picking our son up from school. I saw a report recently about a school that posted signs around the building asking parents to not be on their phones when picking up their children. Children often want to tell their parents about their day or show them work they did while at school, so give them your full attention. You will be glad you did.

Hopefully focusing on these five no-phone zones can help provide more quality family time. I challenge families to put their cell phones and other electronic devices down in the five no-phone zones for one week and see how it improves family communication. You can even have a little family competition – parents versus kids – and see who can successfully stay off their electronic devices in these five zones.