So your child is hooked on drugs…
Or maybe having some other unhealthy behaviour? Or is just unhappy with life or how they fit in? What do you do? Do you wait passively or even stifle it with medications (legal drugs) and hope that the problem will go away? Do you try to facilitate their life and provide easy solutions so they do not feel the need to go to drugs and the friends that invite them to use? Do you simply keep them alive with overdose prevention drugs and wait for them to grow out of the using phase?
Today`s parents have a difficult job. You want to help but how can you help when you do not understand the problems yourself? What are the drugs they use? Why do they use them? Why do they experience such painful moods? Why do they so easily show such anger, disrespect, irritability, laziness? Is it the drugs that cause these problems? Or do these problems lead them to use drugs for temporary relief?
No one can solve a problem without first understanding it. Or else, we`d be shooting in the dark, and either succeeding without consistency, or failing and wondering why. Therefore, the first thing we have to know is that an unhealthy behaviour, any unhealthy mood or behaviour – self-doubt, rejection, not fitting in, lack of motivation, using drugs or alcohol liberally, irresponsible partying, attachment to computer games, chat, porn, antisocial or even acts of self-harm – are simply revelations of how they feel inside or their attempts to suppress those feelings they can neither understand nor fix. It is the same with mood swings, self-doubt, bullying, or submissiveness. These are the unprotected feelings of insecurity that come simply because they do not fit in with their world. It is their world that stresses them – their world of fast paced technology, social unrest, job insecurity, career uncertainty, environmental and health hazards, family disruptions. And what is more, the problems their friends have to face cause them to release actions that create more problems, more turmoil and more rejection than are natural even in their already tough world.
So the problem is that they do not feel good enough and show it. Or they find a way to feel strong that may not always allow acceptance or show intelligence. In other words, they are simply going through the normal task of looking for their own identity and cannot appreciate what they discover. So they build it up artificially, hate it, or find a way to avoid having to face the emptiness that its lack reveals.
So our youth use drugs, not just as a treat, pernicious though it is, but as one of the many ways of acting out an inner turmoil they do not know how to fix. And that inner turmoil is hidden, even from the most caring or discerning parent. So, as a caring parent, we cannot just stop our youth from using drugs, abusing alcohol, or acting out. These are the outward manifestation of an inner turmoil. If we succeed in stifling the behaviour without also or primarily helping them to identify and fix the inner turmoil, all we accomplish is a youth with pent-up feelings he/she cannot reveal. These feelings will burst out another way or much more severely when they get too big for the youth to endure. Therefore, the real problem we have to help them to identify and address is the inner turmoil.
A youth does not always identify an inner turmoil as an abnormal event. It is quite common to externalize it and see the external association as the cause. For example, a youth may say that he is unhappy because he cannot stay out late with his friends. This is not the problem. The real problem is what generates the need to be out late. It may be boredom, a need for acceptability, feeling lost or confused in their own skin, an established attachment to friends to whom they feel they have to prove allegiance, or the singular activity they find relaxing, pleasurable, or forgiving in a life of strife and turmoil.
The real problem is that they do not feel good enough and show it. Or they find a way to feel strong that may not always be accepted or intelligent. In other words, they are simply going through the normal task of looking for their own identity in a new world of chaos, uncertainty, and invisible turmoil, and cannot appreciate what they discover. So they build it up artificially, hate it, or find a way to avoid having to face it.
Therefore, waiting only delays the inevitable. Treating the coping strategies does not fix the real problem. Fixating your focus on the behaviour or the feelings will never allow you or them to solve the real problem. You have to help them discover and appreciate themselves. And that means getting them to realize that their world is tough, not only for them, but also for others. It also means getting them to appreciate themselves for more than what they can show or what they can see, but for how they think. They must be encouraged to stimulate their most powerful asset, the self – learn to like the self as the essence of their nature. Whether it is done through discussions at home, through social challenges at school, or through a church-based discussion of soul or self, that discovery of the invisible power of the human being is essential to the wellbeing and self-management of everyone.
You help your youth manage a drug habit, a social dependence, social fear, or a personal insecurity, not by minimizing the problem or inserting your solution the way you see life, but by accepting its seriousness and helping the youth focus on strengthening the power that can overcome it. Minimizing the problem only sends the message that the youth is as foolish as he/she already believes. Criticizing or punishing a behaviour only confuses them more as they never intended to be bad. They are simply working within their limitations. They have to know that they are simply trying to face a tough reality as a new adult but with the resources of the youth. It is okay to fail or feel inadequately prepared most of the time. It is not okay to stay that way. But they must learn to face their world by developing and relying on their most powerful asset, their rational mind. It is a tough task but one that can help you give your youth something that is more precious than money or prolonged guardianship.