3 Most Dangerous Words a Parent Can Say Part 1
A few months after Keven’s death, I was at the grocery store in front of the milk section. As I reached for my half and half, I heard my name. “Barbara!” and there he was. A guy I’ve known since I was 13. Someone I was very close to in my teens and twenties. We’d stayed in touch over the years.
After a moment of chit-chat he said, “Hey, I heard about your son. I’m really sorry. I’m so glad we raised our kids right, they all went to college and are doing great.” WTF did he just say? I was stunned, but I know this guy well enough to know he meant no harm by implying that if you raise your kids right, they won’t do drugs or end up taking their life. He couldn’t have realized that he was also implying that it was my fault Keven’s life turned out the way it did.
I just smiled. We hugged and went our separate ways, but I thought about his words all day. Basically, he was saying the three most dangerous words a parent can say, “Not my kid”. In my friend’s case, he was right about one thing, his kids didn’t end up using drugs or worse. But the “we raised them right” was 100% wrong. Oh, how I wish it weren’t! If raising our children right (with a balance of unconditional love, instruction on life and discipline) then the world would have hundreds and thousands fewer addicts and suicide victims.
A support group I belong to has 269 members and keeps growing. It’s a mix of parents who have lost a child to drugs or have a child still using drugs. All 269 parents love their children and “raised them right”. Sure, we all make mistakes (my book shares MANY things I did wrong), but most mistakes are made in love or out of ignorance because we’re all human - mistakes are part of life.
I spend a lot of time wondering how I can best help parents of young kids/teens to steer their children away from drugs, and to recognize when they need help for mental health issues? Writing about it is one way I can do this and I have few other ideas planned for the future. Unfortunately, the bottom line is this: There are no guarantees. None. Zip. Nada. You can do all the right things and your child, knowing they are loved and cared for, can still say yes to drugs. For Keven, he used heroin one time and was instantly “owned” by it.
So what’s a parent to do? I think these are a few things that can help:
1) Talk, talk, talk about drugs from an early age. It will annoy them but your voice will be in their head the first time they face the option of getting high/drunk. Educate yourself so you can talk specifically. Don’t be afraid to be graphic or upset them, that’s the goal, for them to have a very negative view of something they will most likely be offered.
Kids know drugs are bad and can change or ruin your life, but they need to know why and how it happens. (Next week I will share about the how and whys).
2) Listen with ears open and mouths shut. We all long to be heard. Adolescence and teen years are probably the most difficult for both the child and parent. They want to pull away more and be independent, but also need us more than ever to help navigate them down the rocky road of hormone changes and new experiences. It’s so easy to cut off a kid in the middle of a sentence and correct them or worse, to lecture them.
Hear what they are saying behind the words before you speak - they may not recognize that they’re lonely, angry, bored, etc. but if you can help them identify their feelings you can help steer them toward a solution.
3) Don’t assume their friends are “good” or “bad”. Its true, hanging out with a different crowd is a sign that they may head down a dark path, but it may not mean that at all. The three young people Keven got high with for the first time were all nice kids. Two of them were in college and had jobs. They’d been athletes in high school. Their parents loved them. They were attractive and looked healthy in every way.
As for the kids that wear all black with piercings on their unsmiling faces, that’s not a sign of drug use. The only way to be sure if they’ve fallen into a dangerous crowd is to get to know their friends, invite them over, and OFFER TO DRIVE. You wouldn’t believe all I learned by driving Keven and his friends around! They’d seem to forget I was there and talk openly about all sorts of things. If your kids don’t want you to be around their friends - you have your answer.
4) Keep them busy. Whatever interests your child has there is probably a group, a club or a team they can join. There are so many options for kids these days, so don’t give up until your child has found something they are interested in that involves other kids or better yet, a supervised official club. Again, no guarantees, Keven was offered drugs by one of the guys on his wrestling team in high school. Kids in sports use drugs too.
5) Speaking of sports, and this is SO IMPORTANT!!!
If your child is injured, or has their wisdom teeth pulled, or anything that involves pain: unless they are in the hospital do all you can to not let them have narcotic pain medication! I can’t count on both hands how many young men I know of that are not here today because of a sports injury that led them to getting addicted to OxyContin or other narcotic pain relievers that led them to heroin use. Tell the doctor why you don’t want them going home with a prescription for any of the following and ask for the strongest non-narcotic available.
Codeine (often in cough syrup)
Fentanyl -- available as a patch (Actiq, Abstral, Duragesic, Fentora)
Hydrocodone (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
Tramadol (this is the least addicting pain killer, I've used it and it helps, but not nearly as well as the medications listed above).
See PDF at the end of this post for a FULL LIST
6) Mental health - if your child shows any signs of mental illness, please get them help as soon as possible (more about this in Part 2)
Sometimes I think I should just keep my mouth shut - who wants advice from a mother who lost her son? But I can't. I care about YOUR KIDS if I know them or not. Do me a favor, since most of my audience has older children or no children, please pass this post on to parents of kids in 4th - 10th grade. I'd appreciate it.
Part two will be talking about the specific things you can say to your children, the how's and whys regarding drug addiction and about mental illness, signs to look out for.
Thank you for reading here!
Peace, Love and Hope,
This PDF contains a full list, used by permission from IT Matters of Colorado.