Background for Teachers
 
Grades 7-8

In the midst of the storm and stress of adolescence, youths undergo a rebirth. Adolescents perceive that everything out of the past, especially their identity as a child, is up for reconsideration. With their new bodies comes the potential of a new identity everything possible, nothing is certain. This state of rebirth produces confusion, frustration, excitement, fear and ultimately high levels of stress.

It is important tHat youths of this age do the following:
Develop a positive sense of self and of their own capabilities;
Understand the importance of continuing their education;
Understand the pressures of peers and be able to resist them;
Know sources of help other than their peers.

Influence of peers
Youths in grade 7-8 have had little experience in coping with stress, and they believe that the only persons who can really understand and help them are their age mates, or peers. As a result, they increasingly want to spend time with friends their own age. They talk endlessly on the telephone, pass notes in school, make excuses to get out of class or out of the house, ostensibly to accomplish some task, but really just to see each other. They seem to need constant reassurance that what is happening to them is normal and okay. Youths in grades 7-8 want to be noticed. Mostly they want to be seen and noticed by each other.

importance of belonging
The motivation for much of adolescents' behavior is the desire to belong, especially to a peer group. The feeling of belonging may in fact be vicarious; they may only be reading, listening to music, or viewing movies or television programs in which youths their age are involved. The desire to belong produces a need to behave as their peers do. Peer pressure is not so much an actual pressure by one person or a group to behave in a certain way, but rather the self-imposed pressure an individual feels to behave like others in the group to feel a part of the group. Because of their desire to belong by looking like everyone else their age, adolescents select clothing that appears to be virtually a uniform.

influences on learning
Youths in grades 7-8 are risk takers. What scared them before intrigues them now. They believe they are invincible. They are quick to accept dares. To test rules and laws to the limit, and to flirt with death, believing it will never tough them. The risks of using drugs are intriguing on several levels: violating the law, breaking parental and school rules, and defying physical danger and even death. Drug prevention programs, and especially information related to the short and long-term consequences of drug use, should address this attraction to risks. Adolescents enjoy danger and do not believe that the consequences of drug use are a threat to them.


Facts about Alcohol and Other Drugs
 
Grades 7-8

Youths in grades 7-8 need more sophisticated information about drugs and more ways to feel good about themselves. Perhaps their primary concern is being accepted by peers; they need to feel that they belong without feeling they have to resort to illegal or irresponsible behavior.

Concerns about drug use
Research shows that drug use increases at these ages. According to the National Adolescent School Health Survey, conducted in the fall of 1987 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse among 11,000 8th and 10th graders, 8th graders reported the following drug use:

Tobacco
51% of 8th graders reported having tried cigarettes, and 16% said they had smoked a cigarette within the past month.
Nearly equal numbers of males and females reported ever trying cigarettes and smoking during the past month.

Alcohol
77% of 8th graders have tried alcohol; of these, 55% had tried it by grade 6.
34% of 8th graders reported having had an alcoholic beverage within the previous month.

Marijuana
15% of 8th graders reported having tried marijuana. Of these, 44% reported first use by grade 6.
6% of 8th graders reported using marijuana within the previous month

Cocaine
5% of 8th graders reported having tried cocaine. 2% said they had used cocaine within the past month.
Of those who tried cocaine, approximately 1/3, or 2% of 8th graders, had tried crack.

Inhalants

21% of 8th and 10th graders reported having tried inhalants (glues, gases, sprays).
Of those who tried inhalants, 61% of 8th graders reported first use by grade 6, and 78% of tenth graders first use by grade 8.

Perception of risk
81% perceived a moderate or great risk from occasional use of marijuana; 88% from cocaine powder; and 77% from occasional use of inhalants.

Peer disapproval of drugs
93% said their close friends would disapprove if they used cocaine occasionally.

Information about drugs
Youths in grades 7-8 need to know:
How to identify alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, and stimulants in their various forms;
That use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is illegal at their age;
That experimenting with drugs is using drugs and does carry significant risks;
How drugs are pushed and how society fights the drug supply problem;
That laws about the use, manufacture, and sales of drugs are designed to protect people;
The extent of the drug problem locally and the efforts of authorities to control it;
How addiction affects individuals and their families.


Working with Parents
 
Parental participation

To help parents help their children through difficult times parents should follow these guidelines:
Be open and honest in communicating your expectations for behavior,
Keep lines of communication open,
Set a good example through your behavior and how you make decisions and solve problems,
know the facts about drugs, including street names for common ones and how they are sold and used,
help your child assume civic responsibility by helping others, especially peers and younger children.


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