Hazelden’s traveling exhibit helps parents decode potential warning signs in their teen’s bedroom

The Top Secret Project, a parents-only event, came to Wayzata Central Middle School

Parents walk through a mock-up of a teen’s bedroom Oct. 17 at Wayzata Central Middle School as part of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s new traveling exhibit, The Top Secret Project. The event invited parents to learn about the hidden-in-plain-view warning signs related to drug or alcohol use or self-harm that may be in their teen’s bedroom. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)
Parents walk through a mock-up of a teen’s bedroom Oct. 17 at Wayzata Central Middle School as part of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s new traveling exhibit, The Top Secret Project. The event invited parents to learn about the hidden-in-plain-view warning signs related to drug or alcohol use or self-harm that may be in their teen’s bedroom. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Around 250 parents helped launch Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s new traveling exhibit Oct. 17 at Wayzata Central Middle School.

The event, called The Top Secret Project, invited parents inside a mock-up of a teen’s bedroom to show hazards related to drugs and alcohol that may be hiding in plain view. In total, there were 150 items that could be signs of potential hazards.

“We purposely inundated the room with potentially hazardous items,” said Cendee Palmer, an outreach manager with Hazelden’s adolescent and young adult treatment facility in Plymouth.

Scattered throughout the room were many different items that could be seen as warning signs, from the obvious to the seemingly innocuous.

“For example, the stuffed animal on the bed could be cut open and to store drugs. The hangers that are on the dresser could be used for cutting or self-harm,” said Jessica Wong, a director with the treatment facility. “We talk about drugs and alcohol, we talk about self-harm, we talk about bullying and disordered eating and gang and criminal activity. … It’s primarily substance abuse, but we touch on all of those different areas because a lot of those things go hand in hand.”

The traveling exhibit is a partnership of 11 organizations, including the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Partners in Prevention, a community coalition serving Wayzata Public Schools by working to prevent and reduce youth substance use and promote healthy lifestyles.

Organizers behind the parents-only workshop say the exhibit is meant to provide parents tools and resources to foster safer environments and encourage ongoing dialogue with teens, even when parents feel like they might be invading their son or daughter’s privacy.

“Being a parent who’s in the know and looking for these warning signs could potentially save a life. … It could be the difference between getting them help and not,” Wong said.

A total of 150 items that could be warning signs of drug or alcohol use or self-harm were on display as part of a traveling exhibit put on by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Partners in Prevention, a community coalition serving Wayzata Public Schools. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)
A total of 150 items that could be warning signs of drug or alcohol use or self-harm were on display as part of a traveling exhibit put on by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Partners in Prevention, a community coalition serving Wayzata Public Schools. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

After parents walked through the bedroom, they were invited into the auditorium for a 90-minute presentation.

“The first half of the presentation is decoding those mysteries and decoding the items in the room, and the second half of the presentation is parenting tips and how to build stronger families,” said Alison Wobschall,  project director for Partners in Prevention.

The exhibit will soon make stops in St. Cloud, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Chicago, and is open for citizens to book for a demonstration in their communities.

The Top Secret Project was part of Partners in Prevention’s fall program, Let’s Talk: Teen Domains, which is the first part of a two-part parenting series. Let’s Talk: Teen Stress will be offered in the spring.

Additional info: TopSecretProject.org and PartnersinPreventionMN.org

Contact Jason Jenkins at [email protected]