Parents are the missing link in programs designed to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse, according to the National PTA and GTE Corp., so they've launched a program to involve the nation's moms and dads.

"The most important message is, `it's simple,"' says Ann Lynch, National PTA president. "Home and community have to work together."The project, called Common Sense, is aimed at the parents of third- to sixth-graders. It works to encourage parents to offer consistent role models to their children and to make links within the community for alcohol and drug prevention.

PTA officials say they hope to have Common Sense - their biggest project ever - in the hands of 5,000 Parent Teacher Associations across the country by the end of the school year.

"What we discovered was that most programs are geared toward students at school, the children themselves," Lynch says. "We could not find anything that gave parents the tools to prevent drug and alcohol abuse in their home."

Common Sense, two years in the making, was developed with a $1.4 million grant from the GTE Foundation, GTE Corp.'s philanthropic arm.

The program is contained in a kit that will be free for the asking to local PTAs and $40 for other groups. It offers instructions and information for four meetings with parents and includes handouts and a 15-minute videotape.

"The program is geared at helping parents set some guidelines without threats," Lynch says. "Parents set the environment."

Common Sense focuses on limit-setting, providing children with good role models and building bonds to family and schools.

She says the emphasis is on grade-school children because parents and community groups cannot afford to wait until high school to raise the issues of drug and alcohol abuse.

The PTA says the program was developed in conjunction with an advisory panel of educators, law enforcement officials and workers in the substance-abuse field.

The National PTA, a child-advocacy volunteer group, has 6.8 million members in the United States and abroad.

GTE Corp. provides products and services in telecommunications, lighting and precision materials.