Des Plaines, IL – More than 60 parents, clergy and youth leaders attended a breakfast forum titled “How To Talk To Your Kids…and save your child from substance use/abuse” on Saturday, December 8 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. Sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth (OCCHY) , the forum hosted people from seven Orthodox jurisdictions representing fifteen parishes in the Greater Chicago area.
Following a prayer and welcome from OCCHY Director Fr. Nicholas Dahdal, and brief introduction to OCCHY by Project Coordinator Gordana Trbuhovich, the program began with a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) video presentation, featuring Dr. Nora Volkow. Three dynamic speakers followed, beginning with Fr. Athanasios Papagiannis, LCSW, a licensed social worker and assistant priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. Father Athanasios stressed positive and spiritual relationships in his presentation, “You and Your Child." “The way you bend the young branch,” Father stated, “is the direction in which the tree will grow." Lisa Razzano, Ph.D., CPRP, associate professor of Psychiatry and Deputy Director at the University of Illinois Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy, held the audience captive with the topic of “Youth and Development Issues in Harm Reduction." Her presentation included an enlightening power point on the "Factors and Risks for Substance Use Among Youth," revealing usage data and age comparisons. “Understanding what happens during puberty is essential in understanding your child," Dr. Razzano said. “Normal growth and development steers kids to challenge themselves which, in some cases, results in abnormal behavior." Why do kids use alcohol and drugs? asked Dr. Razzano. She noted a very simple teen response—“Because I can."
Summarizing both earlier speakers' remarks, Commander Jason Leavitt of the Park Ridge Police District assured the attendees, from his perspective as a parent and as a law enforcement officer, that “the best anti-drug is YOU." Leavitt also stressed that it’s too late to become the parent after you’ve tried being a teen's "friend."
“Kids grow up having their own friends,” Leavitt said, “and you are not one of them." He emphasized that openly checking teens' phone texts, tweets, and emails is essential to monitoring their relationships and keeping them safe.
The questions and answers continued even after the event ended, as individuals approached the speakers with personal questions of their own. Father John Rallis, dean of St. John the Baptist Church, stated “I did enjoy the forum. I would like to explore the possible working relationship between OCCHY and our Metropolis Family Synaxis Ministry." Father Tom Kazich, Director of Education for the Serbian New Gracanica, Midwestern Diocese commented, “I’m so glad for the success of the seminar. All speakers interacted and supported one another, and offered a consistent message.” More parent forums are being planned for the greater Chicago area.
- Visit OCCHY's website  for more information
- Contact Project Coordinator Gordana Trbuhovich at firstname.lastname@example.org (708) 298-9770
- Contact the national office: Kathleen A. Purpura, Executive Director, Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth, P.O. Box 389, Westwood MA 02090 (617) 240-3321