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Television Reviews : Help for Parents on KCET's 'Drug Free Kids'

February 05, 1988|LYNNE HEFFLEY

Are your children too nice to use drugs? Unless they're in solitary confinement until they're 21, all kids, from all backgrounds, will be exposed to drugs at some point, probably earlier than you think.

For parents who feel too helpless, scared or angry to deal with the issue, or who don't worry, because their children are "too smart," "Drug Free Kids: A Parents' Guide" is a must. The program airs Sunday at 5 p.m. on KCET Channel 28, having already been presented on other PBS and cable stations over the last few weeks.

It's not a statistics show, nor is it scare-'em sensationalism. The program, introduced by First Lady Nancy Reagan, is an hour of responsible role-playing acted out by a stellar cast, hosted by Ken Howard and interspersed with advice from experts: doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other counselors.

Some fine talent lends a hand here: Jane Alexander, Ned Beatty, Marj Dusay, Bonnie Franklin, Marla Gibbs, Melissa Gilbert, Elliott Gould, Bo Hopkins, Richard Masur, Adam Rich, Susan Sullivan, Paul Winfield and others are featured in excellent on-target scenes.

We see parents confronting a child suspected of drug use, and others who send mixed signals: Ned Beatty plays a father disapproving of his hungover son (Adam Rich), but wondering why the boy can't hold his liquor "like a man," inadvertently encouraging its illegal use and perpetuating macho myths prevalent in advertising and film.

Other parents talk to their children about peer pressure and the painful anxieties adolescents experience. Sullivan is a mom adamant that her daughter (Annie Oringer) not wear a prom dress that makes her look like "a lady of the evening," but who, in listening to why the girl wants to wear it, learns a lot about her daughter's fears.

The information here is frank, serious and to the point: Parents have to take responsibility, get involved. They must let their children know they're loved, talk to them, set up firm guidelines for behavior, but learn to listen as well and recognize the warning signs--a child who's pulling away from friends, family and interests.

We learn that children (and adults) usually obtain drugs from friends--nice people--not a sleazy drug pusher in an alley somewhere. Will they grow out of it? One doctor points out bluntly that a drug-dependent child can be "a life-long burden for parents," because so many are unable to function successfully as adults.

If drug use is expected, there's no time for niceties: a child's right to privacy is not as important as his or her emotional and physical health.

The show, produced by the Scott Newman Foundation in association with Legacy Entertainment, is a valuable survival tool.

At the end of the hour, parents are told where to call to order a video cassette of the program. Proceeds of tape sales go to the Scott Newman Foundation, the Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" Program and country-wide local drug programs.

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