Question: I am a single parent raising a teenage son and am concerned that my son is being recruited to join a neighborhood gang. I feel helpless. What can I do to prevent this from happening?
Answer: The growing prevalence of gangs in our communities is a great concern to us all. The lure of becoming a part of a gang can have a very powerful effect on youngsters. Parents are left to feel helpless to combat it. If a parent suspects their child is involved with a gang, there are basic steps they can take to fight back against this dangerous and negative influence:
First, a parent needs to become familiar with the possible warning signs of gang involvement. They can include the following:
- Obsession with wearing particular colors of clothing or logos
- Wearing excessive amounts of jewelry with distinctive designs
- Listening to gangster-related music and videos
- Withdrawing from family members
- Becoming less concerned about school
- Hanging out with a new group of “friends” that have a bad reputation
- Displaying tattoos, graffiti, or other strange drawings or languages
Secondly, as a parent you need to talk with your child. Start by engaging them in a conversation by asking about his activities and those of his friends. You must be willing to talk about the gang activity that is present in your neighborhood and at his school. It’s important for parents to know that a teen’s one word answer is not enough, but asking follow-up questions is necessary to get more detail and insight into the child’s activities. However, the ability to listen to a child is the most important skill a parent can have.
It is important that parents also get involved in positive activities with their child as much as possible. Organized sports through the local YMCA or Police Athletic League as well as participation in volunteer activities that serve the needy in the community are also helpful for you and your child to participate.
Staff members from my gang’s bureau work directly with the NYC Department of Education to teach youngsters about the dangers of gangs and how to resist the lure of the gang culture. If you would like to arrange a presentation at your child’s school, suspect that your child might be in a gang, or would like to report gang activity in your neighborhood, please contact Executive Assistant District Attorney, Special Counsel to Schools Frank Laghezza at 718-250-3395. All information will be kept confidential.
December 4, 2011 - 2:15am