Program at Milford Library shows your teen’s stash may be hiding in plain sight
A stainless steel insulated water bottle in the teen girl’s bedroom screwed off at the bottom. A bottle of beer was hidden inside.
A seemingly normal wristwatch on her night stand had a clock face that popped out to reveal a marijuana grinder and storage compartment.
That flash drive in the USB port of her laptop? It’s a Juul, or type of tiny e-cigarette charging.
Even the packaged tampon on her dresser held an empty vile for contraband — called a booze tube or a doob tube, depending on what it’s stashing.
The items were hidden in plain sight — and that was the name of an educational event for parents, educators and caregivers, held this week at Milford Library and brought to the city in a joint effort of Milford Prevention Council and Milford Health Department. The Hidden in Plain Sight program is run by the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals
At the front of the room was a mock teen girl’s bedroom — realistically portrayed with an unmade bed, clothes strewn about, an open laptop on the bed, a lopsided lampshade and surfaces cluttered with hair products, coke cans and more.
Part of the exercise invited those in attendance to pour through the items and find the places where bad things like drugs or alcohol could be hidden. Even an umbrella handle screwed off to hold contraband.
“I’ve never had a parent go through (the room) and say, ‘I expected that.’ They’re always shocked,” said the event leader Cristal DePietro of the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals and prevention coordinator for the Haddam-Killingworth district. “It’s so important to educate parents.”
DePietro, who jokingly called the room that of “the world’s worst kid,” told parents most of the “sip, stash, smoke” items could be purchased on Amazon for under $25.
And yes, it’s OK to search their rooms, the experts said.
The broader objective of the presentation was to encourage parents if they find drugs or alcohol — or if behavior suggests it — to approach their kids and start a dialogue.
In approaching teens or adult children about use, it’s important to “put anger and panic aside,” and start a discussion when everyone is calm, according to literature distributed at the event.
“Show love, concern, empathy and compassion. Let your child know you value honesty and will listen without judging,” the material states.
Then, a parent should “clearly state,” what evidence they found, ask open-ended questions, point out the positives of the situation, let the person know you see the good person they are beyond the “bad choices.”
Then, set consequences.
DePietro, who works with teens in the Haddam-Killingworth district said there is more internal pressure these days than peer pressure. In her district there isn’t much for teens to do, so if there’s a big party they are faced with going or staying home, DiPietro said. Teens need to learn if they go and are in a situation at a party that it’s OK to turn down substances.
“We have to empower kids to be the one to say, ‘No,”’ she said.
Wendy Gibbons, program director at Milford Prevention Council stressed the importance of “serious consequences” for drug or alcohol use and stressed the importance of not normalizing use in families where there is history of addiction.
“If there’s addiction in your family, treat it like a peanut allergy,” Gibbons said.
DiPietro had the audience of about 50 mesmerized with the stash possibilities — and gave them a few other practical tips, including, “If your dryer sheets go missing, you might have a problem.”
She showed how the dryer sheets are used to line a toilet paper roll and cover one end to create a tube for smoking pot without the smell.
Other stash and veiled paraphernalia included: a beaded bracelet that when unlatched becomes a pipe; a bulky scarf with a zipper that hides a container and sipper for alcohol; a metal pipe that looks like a credit card; a false Coke can; a hollow hairbrush handle with an end that opens; a pencil case with lining that blocks the smell of marijuana; a dictionary that opens to reveal it’s a stash; pin sunglasses with bottle openers on the ends of the stems that hook over the ear; lipstick container that’s actually a marijuana grinder; a plastic fanny pack-type accessory with a spigot that fits under clothes and can be filled with alcohol.
Two parents from Orange who are friends, Denise VanHise and Denise D’Onofrio, said the session was “informative” — and VanHise added that watching a teen’s social media accounts is another way to find a treasure trove of information.
VanHise said that having come from West Haven she already knew about a lot tricks, but the Hidden in Plain Sight presentation is great for giving parents starting the teen years “a jump” on the situation.
D’Onofrio, who along with having a teen at Amity High School is an English teacher in Bridgeport, said she’d like to bring the program to faculty there although, she noted, the students in her district don’t exactly hide use with pricey stash containers.