We all loved her as Laura Ingalls on the beloved television series Little House on the Prairie. Now, Melissa Gilbert is all grown up and speaking out against a cause close to her heart: teen alcohol and drug prevention. “I know from personal experience the importance of educating parents about the dangers of teen substance abuse,” the mom-of-four tells Celebrity Baby Scoop.
Melissa, 47, sat down with Celebrity Baby Scoop and opened up about the “staggering” statistics facing our teens and her best advice for concerned parents: “I truly believe that empowering parents is the first step in preventing the disease of addiction from ruining families,” she said. The actress also talked about her four sons – Dakota, Michael, Sam, and Lee – whom she’d “rather hang out with more than anyone in the world.” Read on about Melissa’s mission to empower parents with DrugFree.org, and hear about her upcoming Christmas movie.
CBS: We think it’s great you partnered with DrugFree.org for their 25th Anniversary Luncheon! How did you get involved with the organization? Do you have a personal connection to the cause?
MG: “I decided to get involved with The Partnership at DrugFree.org because I know from personal experience the importance of educating parents about the dangers of teen substance abuse. The statistics are staggering – 90 percent of addictions get their start in teenage years, and I truly believe that empowering parents is the first step in preventing the disease of addiction from ruining families. I am currently celebrating my seventh year in recovery and I have faced substance abuse issues within my immediate family in a number of ways.
The Partnership at DrugFree.org is a unique organization dedicated to educating parents and providing them with the resources and tools they need to address a teen drug or alcohol problem with a loved one.
I am proud to join them in their efforts to help parents understand they are not alone and that addiction is a disease that affects 85 million people in the US alone.
I will continue to share my voice and my personal experiences as a ‘cautionary tale’ to get people talking about – and taking action – on this critical health issue.”
CBS: What can parents do to help safeguard their children and teens from the risk of alcohol and drug abuse?
MG: “Parents can start the conversation early, not only talking with their kids about the risks of substance abuse, but also by taking an active role in listening to them and closely monitoring what’s going on in their personal lives.
Who are their friends? What are the trends at school? Have their friends ever asked them to try drugs or alcohol? Setting limits, especially for teens, and setting clear rules also helps a lot. Believe it or not kids not only need rules, they want those boundaries.
It’s important to always remember that above all else you’re a parent – not a friend – to your child. I don’t care if my kids are annoyed that I’m ‘that mother’ who needs to know what’s going on in their lives all the time. It is my job to be THE MOST important influence in the lives of my children and research shows that kids who learn a lot about the dangers of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to ever try drugs than those who do not get that critical message at home.
When parents become actively involved in what their children are doing, it is more likely that their kids will make healthy choices for themselves. We can’t shield our kids from every negative influence they are presented with, but taking certain steps and staying engaged in their lives can certainly help.”
CBS: How old are your boys? Do you have just one in the house now? What are their hobbies and interests?
MG: “My boys are now ages 31, 26, 22, and my youngest is 16. I have the two younger ones living with me at home. They both like video games, music, dinners at home, taking naps and watching movies. My older son builds models and my younger one loves acting.”
CBS: How has your relationship changed with them now that they are older?
MG: “Well there’s a lot more we can talk about and share together. Some of our conversations can even become intense debates, but mostly our conversations are very open and honest. I’d rather hang out with my boys more than anyone in the world. And they are fun and make me laugh….a lot!”
CBS: What’s been the most rewarding part of motherhood?
MG: “I have to say that the most rewarding part has been watching my sons grow into happy, successful, compassionate and confident men. Actually, I think I get the greatest rewards from learning from the mistakes I have made through the years. I know that when the boys can say to me, ‘Mom, that’s really unfair,’ or, ‘Mom, that hurts my feelings,’ I have a unique opportunity to tell them I’m sorry and change my behavior. My sons make me a better person.”
CBS: Do you have any plans for the holidays yet?
MG: “So far our plans are all about being together as a family and being home for the holidays. We’ve traveled the last few years during the holidays so this year it’s all about home, healing, and laughter….with lots of carbs of course!”
CBS: What projects are up next for you?
MG: “I am excited for a new film which will air December 12 on the Hallmark Channel called, The Christmas Pageant. Also I have two new books coming out next year so right now I am focused on writing like crazy.”