When your child is addicted to drugs
As parents of four, we have first-hand experience of how our lack of attention and quality time with our children contributed to one of them becoming addicted to drugs, which in turn resulted in anger, depression and ultimately incarceration.
I write of our experience to give other parents out there some of our hard won knowledge.
We have gone through various phases and emotions about the drug problem of our son. For so long, we lived in denial, ignorance, desperation, and we almost gave up. We finally acknowledged that we needed to take ownership, accountability and responsibility if we wanted to rescue our child, who is on his way to recovery – after an up-and-down, painful struggle of nearly 15 years.
We believe that much of this could have been avoided if we had paid more attention and cared enough to become aware of what was happening in our child’s life. Instead, we were more focused on trying hard to earn a good living and give our family the ‘things’ that we did not have when we were growing up.
So, you might be thinking: “Well, that’s your story, so what’s that got to do with me?” Everything! The rising drug plague in our society affects you directly or indirectly in one way or another, whether you recognise it or not.
You can read about our story and think that nothing in here has anything to do with you. That is if you are immune to the harsh reality of the newspaper stories about drug-fuelled violence, rampant burglaries and theft, sugar daddies, explicit sexual posts on Facebook, and porn videos going viral in our formerly conservative community.
You could still be fooling yourself about the extent of the impact of drug addiction and living in a fake world called ‘nothing-bad-ever-happens-in-our-2 million-population-Namibia!’
I have been observing many of my friends, family, acquaintances and strangers on how they manage their kids. Not that it is any of my business, but I simply listen to them complain about their children; how they don’t do any chores or their homework; but only want money and ‘stuff’.
Sadly, the degree to which they give children clothing, money, technology and gifts, is in direct proportion to how these kids behave and eventually turn out as adults. They have been unconscious bystanders financing their kids’ quest to keep up with the Kardashians or whatever artificial standard takes their fancy.
Some parents are blind to their consciences and common sense as kids coerce them into giving them N$300 to ‘spend some time at the mall’ on a Saturday, while paying their gardener or domestic worker a measly N$120 for doing a full day’s work – totally mismatched values.
I have seen teenagers insulting their parents, talking to them as if they were the seniors, only for the parent to timidly look the other way and make excuses for that same rude child’s behaviour. I have seen kids throwing tantrums in public when they don’t get their way, only with the parent rushing to capitulate and giving in to their whims.
Sadly, I have also seen parents heartbroken at the news that their beautiful son or daughter was locked up, raped, killed in a drunken driving accident or dead from a drug overdose.
The sad reality is that money has become the master compensator: a baby-sitter, love and attention-giver; anything you want it to be. Parents today are too busy making money, or are struggling to pay debt, have other commitments to think about and simply end up delegating their parental responsibility to Mammon.
But, what are the possible solutions to assist parents in avoiding the dereliction of their duties. The answer we have embraced is good, old-fashioned parenting – paying attention, caring, giving love, discipline – when it matters, not when the writing is on the wall.
There is no such thing as getting something for nothing: children need to learn values, discipline, strength and integrity; this they should learn from their parents. When they make a mistake, they need to learn from it; and they need to be praised for a job well done – how else will they learn accountability and responsibility?
Teenagers learn these skills only when they are motivated to stand on their own two feet. They need to earn their money or privileges through performing chores, doing extra things and getting good school marks. Parents are doing them no favours by simply handing it to them on a platter; this only builds values of entitlement and instant gratification.
When your child strays and gets involved in drug or alcohol abuse, don’t become a “not-my-child” parent. Face the reality, let go of the embarrassment and help your child – you will regret it even more when your child spirals out of control, overdoses or end up in jail.
Don’t feel guilty for your child’s problems – guilt is NEVER an appropriate emotion, even though we know it is hard not to blame yourselves as parents when things go very wrong with your children.
You are not your child’s friend – when they break the rules, discipline them! Yes, they might be upset, shun you and give you the silent treatment, but they will get over it – don’t give in to it. They are masterful manipulators; and all they do is to make you feel bad and give in. It might be painful for a period, but that too shall pass. Someone has to take charge – let it be you – be the adult.
Get to know who your child hangs out with. Take an interest in their friends and be careful to allow sleepovers only at their friends’ homes where you know and trust the parents. Shocking reports of under-age alcohol use, sex parties, and drug abuse are coming from some of these sleep-overs where parents who own those homes aren’t even present or exert no supervision.
Your teenager might feel strongly that you are in their business – interfering and imposing on their freedom and privacy. Well, until such time that they earn their own keep at their own home, they are subject to dance to your tune. Reminding them that you love them can be very important.
Spend time with your kids; find out what makes them happy and do things together to bond with them. Don’t wait until they are standing in the dock facing a judge, or you are standing at the side of their grave. Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.