In the later stages of pregnancy with my son I developed preeclampsia. My blood pressure got dangerously high and an emergency c-section was performed for fear his life was in danger, as well as mine. He was born a very healthy baby boy while I, on the other hand, was not in a good state. I was immediately put on high blood pressure medication and placed in intensive care. Consequently, I couldn’t have my new baby son in the room with me. I couldn’t have any visitors or phone calls. The room needed to stay dark and quiet at all times. The slightest stimulation would elevate my blood pressure.
Time would tell if my blood pressure would naturally go down as my body returned to its non-pregnant state or if the pregnancy had pushed my body over the threshold for a lifetime of high blood pressure. Nonetheless, I was told I had to take high blood pressure medication every day until further advised.
I realize the medication was to save my life, but I was not happy about taking it. If you know anything about me, you would know that I don’t even like taking Tylenol for a headache. So, the idea of taking a prescription pill indefinitely upset me. I complained about it to my husband. I complained about it to my doctor. I complained about it often.
At the same time, whenever I would come across an article or brochure about how to manage blood pressure I would read it. I was the most knowledgeable person when it came to preventing high blood pressure. The advice was always consistent. Exercise regularly. Manage my weight. Limit my sodium intake. Reduce my stress. Get adequate sleep.
Really? How is a first-time mother with a newborn baby suppose to find time to exercise, sleep, cook healthy and not have stress? Impossible!
Fast forward two years later… my son is now a toddler and I am still taking blood pressure medication every day and still complaining about it to my doctor and husband. Both would say to me, “You know what you can do to manage your blood pressure besides medication. Just do it.”
It’s not what I wanted to hear. Sometimes the truth hurts. But, they were right. I knew everything I needed to know and do to manage my blood pressure. I just wasn’t doing it.
One summer day I decided to take my two-year-old son to the swimming pool. I put my swimsuit on and looked at myself in the mirror. I had done this before, but something was different this time. When I looked at myself in the mirror on that day I saw how unhealthy I was.
During my pregnancy I had gained a lot of extra weight and two years later I was still carrying much of it. The mirror didn’t lie that day. I was overweight and unfit. In that moment, something changed. The change was with me. The change was in me.
What changed that day in front of the mirror?
It was my ATTITUDE AND MOTIVATION!
I had an attitude adjustment!
That day was the beginning of new habits for me. I started an exercise regimen, ate healthier, practiced yoga and got as much sleep as possible with a 2-year-old. Over time, my weight went down and so did my blood pressure.
The day finally came when my doctor told me I could go off of blood pressure medicine! But, he reminded me that I needed to keep doing what I was doing if I wanted to stay off of it.
This was 28 years ago. Since then I have been on and off of blood pressure medication. My habits of exercise and diet have gotten off track at times and when they do, my weight goes up and so does my blood pressure. My habits get off track when my attitude and motivation gets off track. There is a direct link between these two.
My story is a reminder that to get any desired behavior you need three things – the knowledge to know what to do, the skills to know how to do it and the attitude and motivation to want to do it!
You can teach your students all the alcohol, tobacco and drug information they need, but knowledge alone will not keep them from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. So, if you are using an information only approach in your prevention work with kids you may be disappointed in what you get as an outcome.
You can also teach your students the skills they need to not use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, but they alone, or even when coupled with good information, won’t do the trick. For example, I have always had good skills, such as decision making, goal setting and resistance skills. The problem was how I used the skills. When it came to my decision making skills I made the decision to eat the potato chips, rather than to not eat the chips. As for my resistance skills to say “no”, I wanted to say “yes” to eating the potato chips! The bottom line is…Skills are utilized best when they are aligned with the right attitude.
Your kids’ attitudes can override all the information they know and the skills they have. They might know all they need to know. They can have all the skills to do what they need to do. But, if their attitude doesn’t support the behavior they are needing to change or adopt, nothing else matters.
Your kids’ attitudes about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs begin to erode as they move out of elementary and into and through middle school. They begin to question the information. They think they know more than you. They know everything. They begin to think they are invincible and can do whatever they want and nothing bad will happen to them.
In fact, the research says that one of the biggest changes with kids in middle school is their attitudes. What do your middle school students need more than knowledge and skills? They need an attitude adjustment!
The most effective prevention approach you can use with your middle school students is one that targets their attitudes about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. In the coming weeks I will share some of the most effective strategies you can use to work on the attitudes of your middle school students.
In the meantime, is there a behavior you have been wanting to change or adopt, but your attitude and motivation is getting in the way of making it happen? Then, you, too, might need an attitude adjustment!