Vinings Gallery by Denard

serenade by Denard Stalling

Art that tells a story

By Susan Baldani

After graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design, Denard Stalling moved to Atlanta in 1989 and started working at a gallery. There, he met Gary Handler. He had no idea that 10 years later they would be opening their own gallery together.

Today, Vinings Gallery has three locations – two in Roswell and the framing operations in Vinings, where Stallings’ studio is also located. He recalls when they first set out to find a location. They chose the nicest building in an up-and-coming area that they felt had the potential for strong growth. Today, Vinings is a neighborhood brimming with energy from the numerous restaurants, boutiques, and galleries.

“People love coming to the area and hanging out,” says Stalling.

When people visit the galleries, he doesn’t want them to feel like they’re in a museum. “We have a totally different vibe; we want you to have a great experience when you come in. Our sales staff is also very friendly.”

The galleries have been carrying Thomas Arvid’s realistic wine compositions for almost 20 years. “We represent great artists and wine is a big backdrop to what we do,” says Stalling.

Another featured artist is Simon Kenevan. They’ve been selling his seascapes for four years and he’s one of their top selling artists.

Each gallery in Roswell has a different flavor. The Elizabeth Way location has many original and limited editions, whereas the Canton Street gallery is more upbeat and where buyers can find top artists who they’ve been carrying for years.

“We’re a decorative art market. We make beautiful images. But, there is some investment potential with the original and limited edition art as well,” says Stalling.

Stalling’s art is well-represented and he will be holding his own show this fall. An illustrator and saxophone player, he is now focused on musical compositions.

“Within that illustration I try to tell a story so it’s not just a still life. There’s some movement,” says Stalling. “I combine my love of music and the appreciation for the styling of the instruments and combine that with a pretty realistic technique.”

To learn more about the galleries and artists, go to

Written for Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle magazine in Smyrna-Vinings, Georgia.


Spotlight on Aladdin Cleaners

Pic one

By Susan Baldani

Located in the Village Shopping Center in New Providence, Aladdin Cleaners has been in business since 1982 and offers much more than just dry cleaning. Don Kim, who has been the owner for the last three years, ensures the best service for all his customers. That’s why their slogan is “Where Quality Makes the Difference.”

Don came to America from South Korea 28 years ago and has been in the dry cleaning business for over 20 years. His first store, Spring Cleaners in Millburn, is now managed by his wife Eunice.

All work at Aladdin is done on the premises and their services include laundering and dry cleaning items such as shirts, draperies, comforters and wedding gowns. They are also experts in tailoring and alterations. If the straps on your sundress need to be shortened or your pants mended, they can do it.

Aladdin Cleaners also provides quick service. Bring in something for cleaning by 11:00 in the morning and they can have it ready for you by 4:00 that same day, and for no extra charge.

They will even pick up and drop off your clothing as well for no additional charge. “We go to New Providence, Summit, Chatham and Berkeley Heights,” said Don.

People are often confused as to what should be dry cleaned and what should be laundered. Silk and wool are pretty easy, because those fabrics almost always need to be dry cleaned. The same goes for anything with lace or pearls and beads, like a fancy gown, and anything made from leather.

For other items, look at the label and especially heed the “Dry Clean Only,” instructions. However, what if it doesn’t say or the tag was ripped off or the print is illegible? Aladdin Cleaners will know how to handle your clothing so no damage is done.

Experimenting at home is never a good idea. Putting an item into a washer may change its shape and finishing it up in a dryer may lead to severe shrinkage.

One thing that makes Aladdin Cleaners stand out from other dry cleaners is that they use only natural dry cleaning ingredients, which Don stressed is rare.

“I don’t think anyone uses natural chemicals around here,” he said.

Don bought the store from the original owner, who had been there for 37 years, so Aladdin Cleaners is well known in the area. Due to the quality of their service, they have a lot of repeat customers, many of whom have been coming in for years.

“The Cleaner’s Association [of NJ] named us best cleaners every year since I have been here,” said Don.

Aladdin Cleaners is located at 1260 Springfield Avenue in New Providence and is open every day except Sundays. They are there from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays. For more information, give them a call at 908-665-1343 or visit their store.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.

The differences between men’s and women’s fashion

Pic one

By Susan Baldani

I’m often jealous when buying clothes for my husband, especially pants. All I have to know is his waist size and inseam, and voila, perfect fit!

I wish it were that easy for women. It’s not enough to know your size, since every designer seems to have his or her own idea of how big or small that size actually is. And length is another tricky situation. I’m 5’4”, which is considered “average” in the U.S., but when buying pants, sometimes average is too long and short fits just right. What on earth do truly short people do?

This is why when trying on clothes I have to bring at least three sizes into the fitting room. It’s a frustrating experience, and buying clothes online is almost impossible. It usually involves shipping items back because they don’t fit.

Shirts and blouses are sometimes a little easier, because if they’re a little too big or a little too small, they can still look okay. But again, when in the fitting room, I usually have at least two sizes of each to try on.

Speaking of shirts, have you ever noticed that men’s shirts have buttons on the right side, while women’s have buttons on the left? Why is this?

Well, it turns out that this fashion orientation dates back to over a century ago. According to the article, “Here’s why men’s and women’s shirts button on the opposite sides,” on, “The reason is historical,” says Melanie M. Moore, founder of women’s blouse brand Elizabeth & Clarke. “When buttons were invented in the 13th century they were, like most new technology, very expensive,” she says. “Wealthy women back then did not dress themselves — their lady’s maid did. Since most people were right-handed, this made it easier for someone standing across from you to button your dress.”

Most men, on the other hand, dressed themselves. However, the article goes on to state, “there are a few competing theories as to why buttons are on the right side.”

‘I think it’s important to question which time period we’re talking about, since shirt and jacket buttons are a relatively new phenomenon,” notes Chloe Chapin, fashion historian and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in American studies. “But as a general rule, many elements of men’s fashion can be traced back to the military.”

Once again, the right-handed assumption played a role since “access to a weapon … practically trumped everything,” she says, noting that a firearm tucked inside a shirt would be easier to reach from the dominant side.

Well, you learn something new every day. Now, if only clothes designers could learn how to make women’s fashion sizes consistent, we would have a better idea as to what size we actually wear.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

Spotlight on Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream


By Susan Baldani

Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream, located in New Providence since 2000, is a family owned and run business. Started by Peter Elefante’s father Robert and his Uncle Al, the shop is named after his grandmother.

Peter, who grew up in New Providence, took over in 2004 and now owns the business. His sister, Kathleen Anderson, helps manage the shop and makes ice cream. “She has been working here since she was 13 years old. She knows pretty much everything I know,” said Peter.

All their ice cream is made on-site, and Zita’s has won a number of awards for their flavors. One of the biggest sellers is their signature flavor named 91716. Bursting with chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter cups, caramel, chocolate chips and vanilla ice cream, it’s easy to see why. Another popular flavor is Kong, made with banana ice cream, caramel, chocolate chips and pecans.

“We have all the traditional toppings like maraschino cherries, wet and dry walnuts, a black cherry topping we get from Italy, which is fantastic, fresh pineapple and strawberry toppings, fudge, caramel, M&Ms, gummy bears, sprinkles, peanut butter cups and more,” said Peter. “There is something for everyone when it comes to toppings and most of the old school stuff too like the pineapple,”

Cakes are also a big part of their business. They usually have the traditional chocolate and vanilla with chocolate crunch in the middle in stock, but they are so popular that there have been times that they’ve run out of them.

“We sometimes cannot make enough,” said Peter.

Custom-made cakes can now be ordered online and can be any combination of flavors. They also do custom edible images and everyday popular images. “So if you want Mickey on your cake or a picture of your grandparent, we can do it,” said Peter.

Besides traditional soft serve and hard ice cream, they also sell ice cream cupcakes; they look just like cupcakes with sprinkles, but are made entirely of ice cream. They have also brought back their chocolate chip sandwiches. They have been such a hit that they had to hire someone just to make these every day. “We sell hundreds of them and can barely keep them stocked,” he said.

“We also started selling freshly baked Belgian waffles in the shop and they are so good you can eat them plain,” said Peter. “But we make waffle sundaes with them.”

Peter also gives his employees a lot of credit for their success. Even when the shop is busy and the lines are out the door, they provide high-quality customer service.

“We want to make sure everyone leaves here with a smile on their face, and they do a really great job of doing that,” said Peter.

Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream is open all year round. In December, they also sell Christmas trees in the back lot and have been doing that before Zita’s was even there.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.

Preparing for the SAT


Helping your teen achieve academic success

By Susan Baldani

Getting a good education is often the precursor to a successful career. Parents want to ensure that their children have the best preparation for life after high school graduation. For many, this often means an advanced degree. However, getting into their top choice college can be difficult.

One important factor is the SAT score. Most universities use it as a guideline for how academically successful a potential student may be in their institution.

There are no quick and easy shortcuts that will lead to getting a high score on the SAT. But, there are things that parents and teens can do to make sure they are ready when test time arrives.

Since the SAT measures years of knowledge, it’s important to prepare for the test in not only the months leading up to it, but in the years beforehand as well.

Make sure your teen is living up to his or her potential by taking course that are at the right level and challenging. It’s better for your child to get a B in a course where he or she is really learning the material rather than getting an A and not getting much out of it. If your child has had a solid foundation of education, he or she will have a much easier time answering the questions correctly on the test.

“Encourage your child to take academically rigorous classes in high school. The SAT is designed to test students on the topics they’re expected to learn through regular instruction in school. The more your child masters her fundamental coursework, the better prepared she will be for college admissions tests,” says Sarah-Jane Lorenzo, an education policy researcher with expertise in college and career pathways.

Encourage your child to read. Whether it’s the latest best seller or a classic literary novel, reading can increase knowledge of a subject as well as vocabulary and speed. Since the SAT is timed, the faster students can grasp the meaning of what they are reading, the faster they can move through the test.

Have your child take the PSAT so they will know what to expect and how the questions are structured. Also, give them access to a good test prep book. Test taking is a skill on its own and while the child may know the subject, he or she may not know how to interpret the questions or directions.

If you feel your child needs more help, look into a test prep group course, or if finances permit, a one-on-one tutor, especially if help is needed in certain areas. For instance, your daughter may be a whiz at math, but struggles with reading comprehension.

“You can also check to see if there are any free test prep classes or proctored practice tests in your community. Many libraries, universities, community colleges, and high schools offer free or inexpensive test prep programs. You can learn about local opportunities from your student’s high school guidance counselor or at the local library,” says Lorenzo.

Schedule the test for a day when you know the child will be well rested and relaxed. For example, if you have a big family event the day before or if your teen is going to the prom, make sure the test date isn’t the next day. Being tired makes it hard to concentrate and organize thoughts.

On the day of the test, take some steps to ensure the best possible outcome.

– Make sure they are up early. You don’t want them rushing around to make it on time. This can lead to frustration and anxiety before the test even starts.

– Encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast to fortify their bodies and minds.

– Make sure they dress comfortably and in layers. Being too hot or too cold can be distracting and lead to less focused thinking.

– Give them confidence by reminding them of everything they have done to prepare for the test.

Give teens the right guidance to achieve success on the SAT. Being well prepared will start them off in the right direction towards their academic futures.

Written for Viva Tysons in Alexandria, VA

Digital Issue

For the love of animals


By Susan Baldani

Pet Spa at Vinings has been in the business of caring for animals for 15 years. Located in Smyrna, the spa offers grooming, daycare and boarding services for dogs and cats.

“Its dogs’ home away from home,” says on-site co-owner Tina Lange.

In addition to the original location, they’ve recently expanded and have a new boarding and daycare facility two doors down. The original location will continue to handle all grooming services and will also include a grooming school.

Unlike at some other facilities, all of the groomers at Pet Spa at Vinings are certified by the International Grooming Association, Inc., which is focused on educating, certifying and accrediting professional pet groomers and caretakers.

Pet owners should have their pets groomed for many reasons, Tina says. When an animal’s coat gets matted, it can lead to skin irritation, skin damage and discomfort. Regular brushing is often not enough to prevent these issues.

Tina, along with Dr. Michael Good, a veterinarian in Atlanta who is also the co-owner of Pet Spa at Vinings, ensures that the pets are happy and healthy. If a pet falls ill, they make sure he or she receives medical care right away.

When the dogs are there for boarding or daycare, they go outside to play and to get fresh air. When they come back in, they are treated to aromatherapy and sound therapy to help them relax.

“Dogs love coming to the spa,” Tina says. “They run in and see us and are so happy to be here.”

Tina hires people she knows well and trusts and who have experience in the business. Her daughters, Cheyenne and Savannah, also help out in the spa.

“We’re not in it for the money; it’s about love. I think that’s why pets want to come here,” she says.

Tina is a huge animal lover and helps her partner, Dr. Good, with his Homeless Pets Foundation based in Marietta. With the help of his Underhound Railroad, more than 30,000 pets have found homes since its inception in 1998. The animals come from hoarding situations, over-breeders, dog-fighting rings, overcrowded shelters and puppy mills from not only Georgia but from other states as well. Dr. Good has even picked them up off the streets.

If the animals are not healthy when they arrive, his first priority is getting them well. Tina then helps them get socialized so they can be adopted. If necessary, obedience trainers may also work with them.

When the animals are ready for adoption, they are transported all over the U.S. Some were recently sent to Maine to live in their forever homes.

For more information about this organization, visit Listen to Dr. Michael Good every week on 101.5 KICKS.

For more information about Pet Spa at Vinings or to make an appointment for your dog or cat, call 770.436.2575 or visit

Written for Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle Magazine in Vinings, GA.

The Move to Assisted Living


Senior care

How to know when the time is right

By Susan Baldani

As our parents age, it often becomes clear that instead of them taking care of us, it’s our turn to take care of them. We want to do our best to ensure that in their senior years they are as happy, healthy, comfortable and safe as can be. Unfortunately, this can lead to some uncomfortable conversations and decisions, for both the parents and their adult children.

How do we help them decide that it may be time to leave their homes and move into a senior living facility, a place where their needs can be better monitored and taken care of? Here are some questions to ask and some signs to look for to assist in making that decision.

Home safety:

Is the parent able to remember to lock doors, turn off appliances, such as irons, stoves and ovens? Is the home easily traversed? For example, are there a lot of stairs leading to bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry areas? Also, are they paying their bills on time to make sure their utilities stay on? Answering no to any of these questions can lead to major safety issues.

Increasing physical and medical needs:

Does the parent need help getting out of bed, using the restroom, or bathing? This can lead to both mental and physical stress for the caregiver. Lifting and supporting someone else’s weight can lead to multiple injuries for the caregiver.

Is the parent eating nutritious meals and drinking enough fluids? Are they able to hear smoke alarms or see well enough to make sure they’re taking the right medicine? Are their clothes clean and are they keeping up with grooming? If not, then extra assistance is needed.

Are there worsening medical issues where advanced knowledge is required? For example, does the parent have a lot of medicines to take with complicated time schedules?


According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sundowning refers to a state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and spanning into the night.” This can be difficult to handle in the home environment as it’s often accompanied by wandering, which can lead to falls, injuries and even death, and can prevent caregivers from getting the rest that they need. Aggression is another symptom of sundowning which can pose a danger not only for the senior, but for the caretaker as well.

Seniors often notice as well when they’re having a hard time living on their own, but may not want to discuss it for fear of losing their sense of independence. They may also keep quiet because they don’t want to burden their children with their own issues. It’s important to let mom and dad know that you want to be told of any problems they may be experiencing, whether emotionally or physically.

These discussions should be ongoing, since issues can develop quickly. Just because mom or dad is fine one day doesn’t mean that he or she will be okay six months later. If you don’t have an open or positive relationship with your parent, you can have someone else step in as an adviser.

It’s imperative that all the adult children in the family be on the same page, so keep the lines of communication open throughout the family. A sibling who doesn’t see the parent on a day-to-day basis may not realize the extent of any problems.

Depending on the level of care needed, seniors can still enjoy a fair amount of autonomy in an assisted care facility. According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), “Some residences provide only meals, basic housekeeping, and help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Others go beyond these services and furnish transportation and certain health services.”

Instead of treating the transition to a senior living facility as a disadvantage, help your parent see it as an opportunity to meet others and have access to new things. With the right planning, moving into an assisted living center can be a smooth and positive experience. And you and your parent will have the peace of mind knowing that they are being cared for in the right environment.

Written for Viva Tysons in Alexandria, VA

Digital Issue

Kids in the Kitchen

Making cooking fun and educational

By Susan Baldani

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, Lynlee Bradley wanted to do something that involved cooking, but was also interested in working with children. So, when she heard about Young Chef’s Academy, she knew she had found the perfect fit.

After working there for two years, she and her husband Austin opened their own location in 2015. Now in Midtown since 2017, where she was born and bred, she feels like her dream has come true.

“Our mission is to teach children the joy and value of cooking,” she says.

Every month there is a theme, and every week a different recipe. Each class is divided into age groups, with kids as young as 3 years old. Besides cooking, they learn cleaning, organization, food and prep safety, math, science and social skills.

Lynlee believes that introducing cooking skills at a young age also helps children develop a sense of healthy nutrition, and finds that they are more likely to eat something they make, even vegetables. Kids who would never eat spinach now love it.

“It’s really nice to be one of the reasons why these kids understand healthy eating,” she says.

And the children learn real cooking skills; it’s not just for fun. One of her former students, 12-year-old Quani Fields, was a runner up on Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef Junior show on Fox. Another graduate, Tyron Sudler, now works at Barcelona Wine Bar as a chef.

The Academy also hosts school field trips, helps Girl and Boy Scouts earn their cooking badges, and have a cooking camp all summer long. Plus, they offer a Young Chef at Heart program for adults only.

Check out their website at and Facebook and Instagram posts to see what’s coming up. They are always enrolling new students.

Written for Midtown Lifestyle in Atlanta, Georgia.

How Dogs Make Our Lives Better

By Susan Baldani

Kristen Finch and Smash

Smash pic

What is your background?
I’ve been the Senior Manager of Community Relations with the Nashville Predators for eight years. I really wanted a dog, but with my crazy schedule it was hard to have one. When I found out we could have a team dog that I could bring to the office every day, it was perfect.

Tell me about your team dog.
We adopted Lord Banner of Smashville, or Smash, from Keely’s Friends Dog Rescue when he was 2 to 3 months old; he’s now about 9 months. We have no idea what breed he is; he’s a true mutt.

What are the benefits of having a team dog?
Smash has really brought the mood of the organization up. He visits different departments, and if people are having a bad day, they stop by to give him hugs and kisses. He also visits the team in the locker room and helps relieves stress and anxiety.

In addition, Smash is involved with Weber’s Woof Pack, our fan club for dogs. For $30, your dog gets a Woof Pack collar and leash, a dog tag, a dog bowl and invitations to exclusive dog-park meet-ups throughout the city, where Smash likes to play. All proceeds go to the Nashville Humane Association.

Jamie Popwell and Sona Jean

Sona Jean 1

What is your background?
I joined the Marines in 1982 and served most of my six years at Camp David. When I came out, I became a police officer and then in January of 1999 took a job as a contractor overseas. During that period, I spent time doing security in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In 2015, I came home for good, but after about 9 months, I started to exhibit signs of PTSD – anxiety, stress, and anger – which could be set off by certain sounds, smells, and sights. My wife, Dina, convinced me I needed to get help and came up with the idea to get a service dog.

Tell me about your service dog.
Sona Jean is a 4-year-old English Lab. She came into my life on Mother’s Day weekend of 2018. Since then, we’ve only been apart for three days. She sleeps with me, goes to work with me, and travels everywhere with me.

What are the benefits of having a service dog?
Sona knows when I’m having a bad day and is able to distract me. It may be by nudging my hand, jumping in my lap, or sticking her nose in my ear from the back seat while I’m driving. She brings me back to reality and gives me peace of mind. I love her unconditionally and I don’t know where I would be without her.

Elizabeth Treadwell and Bogey

Bogey 2

What is your background?
I was born and raised in Michigan, lived in Chicago, and then moved to Nashville 4 ½ years ago to obtain my MBA. I live with my fiancée and two dogs, and work for Mars Pet Care in Coral Springs.

I was always taught to help others whenever possible. Since I love animals and volunteering, having a pet therapy dog is a perfect fit.

Tell me about your therapy dog.
Bogey is a 7-year-old, 100-pound yellow Labrador I adopted from a shelter. He was about 12 weeks old and just so laid-back.
Remembering how much joy my grandfather got when a dog would visit him in the hospital, I decided to get Bogey, at age 2, certified as a hospital therapy dog. Unfortunately, he failed twice because he just couldn’t ignore the food plates passing by.

He was able to pass another exam to work with kids in the Chicago Public Schools system. They would read to him and Bogey loved it; he would hang out with his belly up in the air.

After moving to Nashville, Bogey, at age 5 ½, finally passed the test to be certified as a hospital therapy dog. We were then told that the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt was looking for volunteers, so now Bogey and I visit every other Tuesday morning.

What are the benefits of a therapy dog?
When the kids see Bogey, their whole demeanors change because they can focus on him rather than what they’re actually there for. The kids in rehab don’t even realize they’re still doing their therapy work by walking and petting him.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Franklin, Tennessee.

Talking to kids about drugs


by Susan Baldani

In order to reduce the likelihood of drug abuse, start talking to your kids about the dangers of drugs while they’re young. Waiting until the teenage years may be too late.

“I have been talking to my children about drugs since they were four and five years old,” said Christine Scally, a social worker and mother of two teenage boys, ages 17 and 18, from New Jersey. “We’ve always been very matter-of-fact about it. Because of what I do for a living, the kids know that I have firsthand knowledge of what can go wrong when someone makes a bad choice. We kept it simple initially and focused on how drugs are bad for your body and can cause you to put yourself in harm’s way.”

With young children, start with conversations about how good it feels when we take care of our bodies by doing things like eating right and getting a good night’s sleep. Discuss how this allows them to play and have fun because they are healthy.

As they get a little older, expand the discussion and talk about things that can make them sick, such as poisons and other harmful substances. This can then lead into a discussion about drugs and how they can affect our bodies in a bad way. Keep things simple at first.

“Let them know, for instance, that being high on alcohol or drugs makes it harder to play ball, finish a puzzle, or do other things they enjoy,” said Laura Broadwell, a health writer for Parents and other magazines.

One of the hot topics right now is marijuana. Kids may be hearing multiple points of view on whether it should be legalized or not, but parents need to stress that just because it’s legal for some adults in some states, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for children to use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2018, “About ten percent of eighth graders, twenty-six percent of tenth graders, and thirty-seven percent of twelfth graders reported using marijuana in the last year. At the same time, teens are developing more positive attitudes about using marijuana, with seventy-one percent of high school seniors saying they do not view regular marijuana smoking as very harmful.”

When speaking about the dangers of drugs, stick with the facts and focus on the present. Children and teens are more interested in how things will affect them today, not years from now. Explain the dangers of marijuana and other drugs, such as learning, attention, and memory problems, poor coordination and motor skills, loss of motivation, sleep issues, and poor judgment. All of these can lead to problems in school, as well as in their personal lives.

“As they got older, I got much more specific about the ripple effects of doing drugs and, for example, getting pulled over by the police, being in a car with somebody who has drugs on them, allowing somebody in your car with drugs on them, driving under the influence and hurting somebody else, and how that could impact your life,” said Scally.

Make sure you know what the different drugs are and their effects, as well as other names they may go by. A great resource is the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens (, which gives street names of various drugs and comprehensive information on each one.

Teens often use drugs not only to fit in with their peers, but to also to ward off feelings of boredom, anxiety, and depression. Let them know there are alternatives for handling these issues. If they are bored, get them involved in a sport they like or another hobby that will occupy their time. For anxiety and depression, have them speak with a professional who can teach them how to cope with their feelings in a healthier, more positive way.

Be clear on your stand against drug use, and keep in mind that children learn from watching, not just listening. According to the NIDA, “Parents, grandparents, and older siblings are models that children follow, and research suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs plays a strong role in whether a young person starts using drugs.”

Also, help your child learn how to say no to drugs. “Kids who don’t know how to respond when offered alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, or who don’t know how to get out of sticky situations, are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Act out some real-life situations with your child and brainstorm solutions for what she can say,” said Broadwell.

Of course, children need to know that some people take medications for their health, so help them understand the difference between legal and illegal drugs. Explain that certain drugs, such as Ritalin and Xanax, are legal when prescribed by a doctor for a medical reason. While these are some of the same drugs sold on the street, when taken responsibly under a doctor’s supervision, they help people cope with medical conditions.

“Make sure your child knows your rules about drug use and the consequences if they’re broken. Kids this age can understand the reason for rules and appreciate having limits in place (whether or not they’ll admit it!). What’s more, research shows that children are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs if their parents have established a pattern of setting clear rules and consequences for breaking them,” said Broadwell.

Make your children feel comfortable and respected during these conversations. They will then be more likely to come to you when faced with difficult situations.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine in Virginia.