Healthcare Ministry of Ukraine proposes to give fight to drinking and drugs among schoolchildren and their parents. At the first stage the program stipulates for holding a block of preventive measures with mums and dads. Such work will be held in medical institutions, where parents bring their kids for annual routine examination.

Thus, according to the Ministry's plan, parents will take special questionnaire with questions about them, their kid and his behavior. After filling in all the blanks, the parents are free to keep the form or to bring it to a doctor. In case parents decide to go for a consultation, the doctor will study the information and will explain what this or that question means. "If the doctor sees any risks (alcohol abuse or drug habit), he will address a child narcologist, neurologist or psychiatrist to work jointly with the family in question," Olena Tereshchenko, head of the Healthcare Ministry department on motherhood and childhood.

Report all safehouses and passwords

The Ministry has developed several questionnaires, different for different age.  The first one is for the smallest - schoolchildren from 6 to 8 years old. "If in the family there are habits of drinking or drug using, most probably the child will follow the example in the future," Olena Tereshchenko explained.

The first part of the questionnaire asks whether the kid tells about his affairs in schools, whether the parents take interests in the kid's life, whether the family has rules on usage of alcohol and drugs. More 'yes' there are in the answers less risks there are for the growing generation. The second part of the questionnaire includes questions about psychological characteristics of the child. Parents must answer whether their kid knows what extrinsic "pressure" is and whether he can "get over failures" effectively.

The questionnaire for 9-18-year-old schoolchildren is more complex. Parents must answer whether they have noticed drastic changes in kid's behaviour, whether they have ever seen injection marks or found syringes in the house, whether they have noticed sudden loss of things or money from the house. Some questions are about psychological side of the kids - what music he listens, what books he likes to read, what he dreams about. Both questionnaires include recommendations for parents on topics to speak with their children.  

Housewife Olesya, mother of a first-grade-schoolboy, is happy with the initiative. "Many parents believe that the school is the only one responsible for education, or that showing a kid an alcoholic is enough to scare him off drinking. But data of the Healthcare Ministry busts such myths. I remember when I was in school-age our teachers took us to watch "Requiem for a Dream" - a movie about drug addicts. We laughed a lot back t hem. Nobody took it seriously, as we thought it was too far from us. Later one some of my schoolmates, whose parents ignored their education, started to drink to excess and to take drugs. I believe if their parents had taken more interest in their life the problem would have never occurred.

Director of the International humanitarian center "Rozrada", Cand.Sc. Psychology Valentyna Bondarovska admitted that the recommendations are good, but the questions themselves are not perfect. "Parents cannot answer the question on whether their kid respects himself. They don't know. The questionnaire must include situational questions, like how the child reacts on this or that situation. Analyzing the answers it will be possible to determine whether the child respects himself or not," the doctor explained.

Do you know to lie?

Healthcare Ministry officials have also worked out a questionnaire for parents, who drink or use drugs. Since there are not so many people, who don't drink at all, the questionnaire must be popular among adults.

To find out the efficiency of the questionnaire in practice, we give one to 27-year-old businessman Mykola, father of a six-year-old girl. After first five questions Mykola gets annoyed. "How often do you promise yourself and then fail to control the amount of alcohol you drink? Do you have a desire to keep drinking when your friends say they had enough?" he reads out the questions. "I have never abased myself so far as to promise not to drink. As for 'keep drinking', it depends who I am drinking with. My wife, for example, cannot drink more than one glass of wine, so she starts drinking juice and I keep drinking alcohol. So, what is so bad about it?" Mykola wonders. Summing up the experience, he said he did not like the questionnaire. 

Having asked specialists, ForUm has learnt they are not very about this questionnaire either. "The questionnaire for parents will not be informative. Only personal contact may show if there is a problem in the family," psychiatrists Pavlo Duplenko says.

Valentyna Bondarovska shares the opinion. "Parents will not tell the truth. An alcoholic, for example, will assure everyone he can stop drinking at anytime. Thus, such questions cannot be asked directly, providing for yes-no answer. It would be better to make a five-factor questionnaire with variants 'sometimes', 'rare', 'often'. Unclear wording of the questions also can confuse the parents. For example, the question "Is it common for you to drink much after a difficult working day or a quarrel?" is wrong. You cannot ask a person whether he drinks a lot or a little. Define 'a lot'. For some people it is a hundred grams, for others - no less than half a liter," she notes.

Better one small fish than an empty dish

According to the data of Ukrainian Yaremenko's institute for social study, 76% of Ukrainian teenagers admitted to drink alcohol last year. "Girls drink as much as guys," director of the Institute Tetyana Bondar told one of press conferences. The problem is present, and Healthcare Ministry tries to draw parents' attention to it. However, psychiatrist and narcologist Andriy Karachevski believes we should focus not on alcoholism and drugs as it is, but promote healthy lifestyle and sport. "It's good they try to do something, but to make it more efficient we need a relevant service, which unfortunately does not exist in Ukraine," he complains.

Presidential envoy on children's rights Yuri Pavlenko admitted to ForUm that only questionnaire survey would not solve the problem of alcoholism and drug abuse among the youth. "We do need preventive measures, as the level of alcoholism among the youth is high enough, and the state must react to the challenge. However, we also need to develop a complex of measures on physical training in schools and out of school. We need to hold lectures on healthy lifestyle and to promote out-of-school education," he noted.

Moreover, the official warns about pitfalls of the initiative, including disclosure of confidential information. "You cannot give the questionnaire to children so that they hand them over to their parents. The formality can ruin the whole idea," he underlined.

Professor Andriy Girnyk, head of the psychology, pedagogy and conflict resolution studies department of the Kyiv Mohylianska Academy, also shares the concern on disclosure of personal information due to someone's carelessness. "In my practice I've had cases when school psychologists did not follow the norms of confidentiality and disclosed information to the school staff. Thus, we must be sure in people who will work with the questionnaires. Needless to say what kind of stress a child can experience if his classmates learn about problems of his parents, like shaking in the morning or loss of memory," he said.

However, the Healthcare Ministry argues in favor of questionnaires, assuring that the filling-in procedure will be held in medical institutions, not schools, thus minimizing the risks of information leak. Moreover, parents will not be obliged to deliver the answers to the doctor, but they can always listen to recommendations and advice of experienced specialists. The key is to make parents listen and hear what doctors have to say.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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