BAY MILLS INDIAN COMMUNITY, Mich. (WJMN) – In the fight against addiction, there are people who do not survive. When a family member or friend passes away, processing that loss can be challenging. We spoke with Cameron Peyton, a Substance Abuse Project Director, and and Renee Johnson, a Behavioral Health Services Coordinator for Bay Mills Indian Community about how to have those conversations.

The first advice they told us about for adults is to take care of themselves before they take care of others. Try to avoid any unnecessary changes. Maintain a normal routine as much as possible.

“Kids might come across and say things to adults that are difficult to hear. They might ask a lot of questions. You want to reach out to them and answer those questions with as much truth is age appropriate for that child. Validating their feelings and letting them express them is really important. Some common reactions for parents or caregivers to expect are grief, anger, anxiety, and guilt all come with the loss of someone. So those are things they should expect,” said Johnson.

Johnson continued about how to handle feelings of insecurity with children. “When they’re insecure, there’s a lack of structure to make them feel comfortable and secure. You might see it through some increased activity like hyper-activity. You might see it through some behavior problems. Kids might regress a little bit. All of that is normal somewhat, but if it’s lingering or if it becomes behavior issues at school where they never used to have problems at school, or behavior like they’re not listening at home. That would be a clue where they’re having a harder time with that. Giving children healthy ways to express themselves. Through movement, play, talking to somebody, art sports, journaling, drawing. All of those are really good ways to help kids through it.”

Johnson suggests that adults be present and available for a child when they are having a difficult time. If issues linger, they suggest contacting a mental health professional.

Cameron Peyton offered advice for adults to address children and create an environment for conversation.

The first thing that I would suggest is try not to overreact. I know it’s really hard not to. Especially when it’s your child coming into play and you want the best for them and are watching over them. When you hear your child talking about things their friends are doing, it may upset you. So it’s good to re-evaluate and have that self-awareness to step back and breathe and see what you can do to maximize the next things to do for your child. Talk about what makes a true friend. Help your child understand that a friend who is pressuring them into doing something that is harmful and dangerous probably isn’t somebody that you can trust. Talk about what independence really means to them. At this age, a child wants more independence. You can also at the end of it if you’re finding more options, you could try role-playing peer pressure with them. Ask your child what they wish they could see in their friends or in their family members. Also model saying no. When your child hears you setting limits clearly without a lot of explanation, this helps them see that it’s okay to do the same,” said Peyton.

Peyton spoke with us about some ways to respond to peer pressure.

“Even when you’re confident in your decision not to use drugs or alcohol, it can be very hard to be confronted by your friend or family member when that does take place. A lot of the times when a simple, “no thanks” may be good enough, it might not be. Those things can get intense, especially when people want you to join in on bad behavior and bad ideas. A few tips that might come in handy for adolescents to handle healthy peer pressure or keep away from peer pressure is to offer to be the designated driver at a party. Get your friends home safely and everyone will be glad you did and didn’t take drugs or alcohol. If you’re on sports team, you can say you’re staying healthy to maximize performance. No one would want to argue that a hangover is not going to have you play your best. Say that you have to study for a big test, go to a concert, visit your Grandma. All of those things are good things to keep your mind off in the moment. Maybe you can keep a bottle of soda or iced tea. Whenever you have a bottle with you, your friends are less apt to ask you if you’re thirsty or if you want a drink of alcohol or to abuse drugs. If all else fails, try to look busy,” said Peyton.