‘Let’s Talk’ – a Valuable Toolkit for Middle and High School Families

Program boosts awareness of underage substance use and mental health issues

The third annual issue of Let’s Talk booklet has been distributed to 5,000 Marin County families of this fall’s sixth- and ninth-grade students at local public and private schools. This resource educates parents on how to practice positive ways to communicate, listen and connect with their children as they develop through adolescence. 

The booklet is developed by the Let’s Talk collaboration that includes the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS), the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE), the RxSafe Marin grassroots coalition, the Marin Prevention Network, and Marin Healthy Youth Partnerships (MHYP).

Let’s Talk is a comprehensive program that includes community discussions, bookmarks, posters, postcards, and digital copies of the booklets all of which can be found on www.letstalkmarin.org. The community discussions are designed to further engage the community about these important issues with a background of solid science.

“Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth that is filled with opportunities and challenges,” said Linda Henn, the Let’s Talk program director and Vice President of MHYP Board of Directors. “Through Let’s Talk, we equip parents with knowledge to be supportive while they mentor their young person.”

Feedback from parents, young people, and public health personnel clarifies how Let’s Talk is a much-needed tool that helps parents navigate tough topics of their teens’ formative years. 

“This initiative is such a benefit to our parents and youth to learn about the influence and risk of substance use and to have open dialog within families,” said Kathy Koblick, Marin HHS’s Public Health Division Director. “Over the past 2 ½ years as we have dealt with the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in mental health struggles and substance use. Let’s Talk is impacting our community in a positive way by tackling some of these issues.”

Since its first 2020 issue, Let’s Talk has positively educated parents about how to help teens “navigate the tough stuff” they experience during their transition to middle school and high school such as challenges with mental health, substance use, puberty, and social experience.

Surveys conducted in the fall 2021 reveal that parents of sixth- and ninth-graders believe Let’s Talk is informative and helpful. For example, one parent wrote: “The booklet takes an important issue and bravely introduces it to middle schoolers and their parents. Knowing schools and parent communities support open discussions is hopeful, helpful, and refreshing.”

Surveys distributed to attendees after each of the six Let’s Talk community discussions also had positive responses. “All panelists were terrific and the teens’ discussion of teen experience and parent and teen bonding was extremely informative, insightful and authentic,” one attendee wrote.

Many of the surveyed parents also stated an interest in youth perspectives about Let’s Talk. In response, a group of Marin high school interns have shared their responses about the updated booklet.

“Hearing teens out makes them feel like equals and lets them know that you care about their input, and what they have to say, which helps them to understand the decisions parents might have to make,” says intern Alexis Cartwright, a Redwood High School senior.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I felt that a lot of parents tend to bypass communication opportunities and do things like snoop on their kids’ phones or try sneaky ways to figure out what was going on with their kids,” I like Let’s Talk’s suggestion about how car rides, watching TV together, and local occurrences provide appropriate communications opportunities for parents to navigate conversations with their teens.” says intern Amanda Gong, a Novato High School senior.

For more information, email info@mhyp.org