As parents, it is often our hope and desire that our children can and will be honest with us about any and all things. I have done my utmost to create an open relationship with all of my children but this took some trial and error; something my eldest will be more than happy to attest to given she was my ‘test dummy’. There have been many apologies to her since.
When she turned 13 and things began to go a little pear shaped I was determined to see this through with communication, honesty and clear boundaries. I did alright with two out of three, but the ‘honesty’ component kept falling over. After many failed attempts at resolving this I had to have a closer look at my own approach. I was setting things up well, communicating well but responding and reacting horrendously. I had insisted on the truth but when it was delivered and I didn’t like it there were harsh consequences. Bingo!! There was the fallout. If honesty was the most important thing to me then I had to reward it with a compassionate, grateful ear and a well thought out, calm response.
By the time she was 15 and kids number two was hitting 13, the worst thing they could do to me was lie and that was made clear over and over, especially regarding drugs, alcohol and their whereabouts. Regardless of whether I liked it or not, I had to know who they were with, where they were going, what they were planning on drinking/taking and whether any parents would be there. Furthermore, I would always pick my children up from gatherings or parties. Please don’t assume for a minute that I have ever supported my children’s choices when it comes to consuming drugs and alcohol. I have been around teens long enough to know what is actually going on and I would rather be informed and aware than blissfully negligent.
As a Youth worker I have been witness, time and time again to young girls who have put themselves in highly vulnerable situations whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This hasn’t always ended well. Strangely enough, it is often the kids whose parents have no idea what is going on that end up in these predicaments. Too scared to call home, they accpet the care of anyone around, leaving themselves wide open. I have been called by my girls on more than one occasion to bail them out when they have felt they had drunk too much or simply didn’t feel safe. I have not been waving ‘the mother of the year award flag’ when doing these late night runs but I am always grateful that they have felt comfortable to call me.
I remember my own troubled youth and battle with addiction in my late teens. At the time I was incredibly grateful that my parents were oblivious to my struggles. In hindsight I believe I could have avoided certain situations and tackled my issues more promptly had they been there to turn to. I don’t blame them but I don’t want to make the same mistake. My memory of this dark time is one of my greatest guides now.
Then, of course there’s the argument that ‘letting them do it in your home is safer’. This has never held much weight with me. For one, you need to not be the ‘yes’ person and when you open your home to this you become just that. Secondly, it’s against the law and thirdly, the home is your children’s safe haven. It’s where they can escape the pressures of the outside world and their peers. It’s a place where they need to feel cared for and protected, even from their own decisions.
‘Ice’ has sent a new wave of terror through us as parents and, once again, there is no foolproof solution. To ease your mind a little, the media has had a field day with ‘Ice’. In all honesty, the majority of those taking ‘Ice’ are already methamphetamine users and the statistics support this. Alcohol is still, by far, the biggest contributor to the mounting issues affecting our young people, including hospital presentations, fights, sexual assault, engagement in sexual activity at a young age, car accidents and the list goes on. In saying that, those that become regular users of alcohol or drugs like marijuana are more likely to indulge in drugs such as ‘Ice’ at some stage.
As terrifying as this journey is, and I am certainly not out of the woods with it myself, you must do your best to be that someone that your kids can turn to. Do your research and know what they are exposed to, especially at events such as music festivals and concerts. They are going to make some poor choices and decisions and it is our job to help pick them up and navigate their way back on track. Be careful not to judge other parents whose kids who are struggling with these issues. In this day and age, none of us are immune. I have a child battling addiction as we speak and I am challenged by this daily.
Through this experience, however, there is one thing that I’m more sure of now than ever. I cannot fix the problem. All I can do is stay well versed in the ways I can help when he asks for it.
Until then, staying connected is my greatest asset!