WHAT PARENTS CAN DO ABOUT TEENS AND ADDICTION
By Gwenn Mascioli – Parent
Within the Tredyffrin/Easttown school community, at sporting events, on social media, at dinner tables and beyond… there are many (many) conversations about Chris Herren, a former college and NBA basketball player who lost his career to alcohol and drug additction, and the amazing and powerful thing that happened in the CHS gym during his assembly on Oct. 2. Just the fact that kids and parents are still talking about an assembly more than 2 weeks later is huge in itself. The interest in “keeping it going” is admirable and I too am hopeful that the momentum will continue. But how that manifests is complex and layered. I believe it will require everyone… kids, school faculty, the community and probably most importantly, PARENTS.
Chris’s story began in high school when he drank “just a little” beer and maybe smoked some pot on the weekends – in the “safety” of a friend’s basement. Throughout the speech, Chris repeatedly chimes “what’s the big deal? It’s just a little beer.” His move to a stronger drug happened on the fly. In the blink of an eye, a switch flipped and he started years of battling the disease of addiction.
No one ever thinks they’ll be an addict. Kids especially don’t consider the odds of becoming an addict every time they consider having a beer. The brain isn’t done growing until our early 20’s so the teenage brain does not fully recognize consequences. If anything, teens worry about being caught. But, sadly the fact that drinking before age 21 is illegal does not seem to be part of the equation for many kids.
The statistic is that one in four teenagers who drink alcohol regularly (before they turn 21) will develop an addiction. So picture four kids “drinking safely” in the basement and then look into the future and picture one of them battling the disease of addiction. Odds are high that said kids won’t become addicted. Unless there is a history of addiction in the family – then there is a 40 percent chance of becoming an addict. But if there isn’t a family history – odds are high they won’t get addicted. That’s not to say they won’t accidentally harm themselves or worse yet, someone else. But the odds are in their favor (if 75 percent sounds like OK odds).
Underage drinking is ingrained in the American culture. Do all teenagers drink? Absolutely not – but I think most teens think that everyone (else) is drinking. Because among teens (and adults) perception and legend trump reality. So those kids who are on the fence, who really don’t have a need or interest in drinking but do have a need and interest in having friends – they might be swayed by the perception that everyone else is doing it and decide that, “I might as well if I want to fit in.” Parents as well will say things like: “What are you going to do?” and “You can’t stop them.” And, in reality – what are you going to do? Lock your kid away. No.
Here’s a list of things that parents can do. The list, entitled “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now,” was compiled by the Caron Parent Support Group for Families Impacted by Addiction. Here’s what they suggest:
• Talk. Talk. Talk about drug and alcohol use.
• Set, and reinforce, boundaries with your child that are consistent with your values and rules.
• When a school counselor calls with concerns about your child, do not ignore the warning.
• When your gut is telling you something, know that you are probably right.
• Educate yourself about alcohol, drug use and addictive behaviors.
• Getting angry with your child will not fix his/her problem.
• At a young age, give your child chores or responsibilities.
• Experimentation, which can lead to addiction, can start at a young age.
• One in four teens that regularly use alcohol or drugs will become addicted. (After 21, it becomes one in 25.)
• Love your child through the difficult times as well as the good. They need to know you love them.
• Know their friends. And their friends’ parents.
• Thinking that alcohol and drug use is a “rite of passage” is dangerous.
• Thinking that “it’s just pot” is dangerous.
• Alcoholism/Addiction is a disease. It is progressive and will not go away without treatment.
• Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about your child’s addiction. Being open about it will help you and your child learn to cope.
• Allow your child to suffer the consequences of his/her actions as well as his/her failures.
• Do not waiver when your child badgers you about doing something that you are not comfortable with.
• “Saying no” to your child asking for money is good parenting.
• Be familiar with symptoms of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
• Be willing to get your child treatment for mental health issues.
• Do not allow or enable maladaptive and/or addictive behavior to relieve your own anxiety and fear.
• Enabling your child only keeps them sick longer, and may even cause their death.
• Addiction is a family disease.
• You didn’t cause your child’s addiction and you can’t cure it.
• Saving your child’s life is more important than high school or college. They can get their degree when they are well enough.
• Ask for help. It is out there.
• One day at a time.
Addiction is a disease of the brain that doesn’t discriminate. Twenty-five million people suffer from this crisis. For information on the disease of addiction – look up some of ARCH’s Past Programming (under Events on www.archcares.org). Specifically watch April 12, 2012, Ken Thompson’s speech and the trailer for The Anonymous People.
Source: www.mainlinemedianews.com 22nd October 2014