How to Protect Your Children
“Parents are by far the most important factor in protecting children from substance abuse. They must be a source of example and information for their children.”—DONNA SHALALA, SECRETARY OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES.
AS A PARENT, you are thus the first line of defense in the war against drug abuse. Unfortunately, not all parents may grasp how important that role is. “My father was always busy,” recalls Ireneu, a Brazilian youth. “He had only short conversations with us. We never received any counsel about drugs.”
By way of contrast, consider what Alecxandros, another Brazilian youth, recalls: “When there were TV programs about drug addicts, my father called my brothers and me into the room to watch them. He showed us the terrible condition the addicts were in because of their drug abuse. Sometimes he would take advantage of the occasion to ask us whether we had seen other youths in school who were involved with drugs. That way he warned us about the risks of drug abuse.”
Have you discussed the risks of drugs with your children? To do so, you may need to educate yourself in this regard. Christian parents can help their children to appreciate that using illicit drugs damages them spiritually. The Bible urges us to keep our body clean of all pollution, both physical and spiritual. (2 Corinthians 7:1) A regular study of the Bible with one’s children can be a powerful tool for protecting them. *
It is also important that you establish a relationship of trust with your children. Jehovah is a “confidential friend” to his earthly children. (Jeremiah 3:4) Are you a confidential friend to your child? Do you really listen to your child? Does your child feel comfortable in bringing problems to you? Are you quicker to condemn than to praise? Take the time to get to know your child. Does he or she have friends? Who are they? After all, the Bible warns: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Do not be afraid to set firm boundaries or to render loving discipline. The Bible says: “Chastise your son and he will bring you rest and give much pleasure to your soul.”—Proverbs 29:17.
Furthermore, do not minimize the dangers facing your child. Some parents may complacently reason that because their children come from a well-respected family, they are simply not the type to get involved with drugs. But explains Dr. José Henrique Silveira: “The drug dealer likes to make friends with kids of influential people because it is good business for him.” Yes, if a well-respected youth can be lured into drug use, other young ones may often follow.
So be realistic. Get to know some of the early signs of involvement with drugs. For example, has your child suddenly become withdrawn, depressed, hostile, or uncooperative? Has he or she inexplicably withdrawn from old friends or from family members? Then you may have cause for concern.
Sad to say, in spite of commendable efforts on the part of parents, some young ones still succumb to pressure and experiment with drugs. What should you do if this proves true of your child?
When a Youth Uses Drugs
“When my parents discovered it,” says Ireneu, “my brother had been using drugs for several months. Because they never thought that one of their children could one day become a drug addict, their initial reaction was panic. At first, my father could only think of using brute force to punish my brother.”
Upon discovering that a child is using drugs, parents’ first reaction may very well be anger, frustration, and a sense of failure. However, a fact sheet put out by the U.S. Department of Education advises: “Don’t panic! And don’t blame yourself. The important thing right now is to stay calm [and] find out what’s going on. . . . Drug use is a preventable behavior. Drug addiction is a treatable disease.”
Yes, be kind and firm so that the situation does not get worse. Your becoming overly angry or frustrated may hinder your child’s recovery. Also, you want to help your child to grow up to become a responsible adult who thinks for himself. Hence, take the needed time to reason honestly with the youth to help him see the benefits of being drug-free. Try to draw up what is in the wayward child’s heart, and be willing to listen.—Proverbs 20:5.
Ireneu further recalls: “Later, my parents changed tactics and began to counsel my brother, setting limits on where he could go, changing his classes so as to avoid his meeting the same schoolmates every day. They began to control his associations and to give him and the rest of the family more attention.”
Consider how some other parents have successfully intervened when they discovered that their children were using drugs.
“It is the worst thing that has happened to us,” explains Marcelo, a man who lives in São Paulo, Brazil. “My wife and I had not noticed anything strange in the conduct of our two young sons. Frequently, they ate out at restaurants with a group of other young people we thought we knew well. It was devastating when a friend told us that our two boys were using marijuana. However, upon being asked, they immediately admitted that they were.”
How did Marcelo deal with his sons’ actions? “My wife and I could not hide our distress,” he admits. “But while we condemned their drug abuse, we did not question their worth as individuals. We agreed that our goal from then on would be to help our sons to recover from drug abuse. We talked openly about our intentions, and both sons accepted our terms. They would continue their studies at school and would continue to work. They would not go out alone anymore. We demonstrated our love for them daily, not only on special occasions. Since I work as a builder, I took them along with me as often as I could. We began to have more fun, spending more time in talking about the future and the need to have worthwhile goals in life.” Marcelo and his wife were thus able to help their sons break free from drug abuse.
Consider the experience of yet another Brazilian father. Recalls his son Roberto: “When my father discovered that my brother was abusing drugs, instead of harshly criticizing or disciplining him, Father showed himself to be a friend and gained my brother’s confidence. He got to know my brother’s friends and the places that he frequented, and he began to reason with my brother that he neither needed drugs nor such friends. Father told him that he did not want to spend sleepless nights searching for him.” In an attempt to recover the troubled youth, his stepmother gave full support to her husband. Both agreed that they had no time to lose and decided to help him at home.—See the box “Getting Help.”
Do Not Give Up!
Raising a family in these “critical times hard to deal with” can be exhausting and challenging. (2 Timothy 3:1) Yet, you should never neglect your own emotional and spiritual needs. (Matthew 5:3) How true are the words of Proverbs 24:10: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” Much strength can be gained by associating with true Christians. At meetings at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can find support and encouragement.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Really, teaching your family to have faith in God can be your best defense against drug abuse. Of course, God does not force youths to follow a certain course of life. But he does offer sound advice. As recorded at Psalm 32:8, God says: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you.” As a loving heavenly Father, God wants to protect young ones from emotional, physical, and spiritual ruin. (Proverbs 2:10-12) Be assured that God will also help and support parents who are determined to raise their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
Even so, the pressure of raising children in today’s environment can be overwhelming at times. Is there any relief in sight?
^ par. 5 Jehovah’s Witnesses have published information that can help parents to discuss such subjects as the dangers of drugs with their children. For example, see chapters 33 and 34 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work.
[Blurb on page 8]
“Drug use is a preventable behavior. Drug addiction is a treatable disease.”—U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
[Box on page 6]
Some parents may decide that it would be best for their young one to experience drug withdrawal under medical supervision. Exactly what kind of treatment parents will seek is a matter for personal decision. But since the quality of care given in rehabilitation clinics varies greatly, parents would do well to investigate matters thoroughly before committing to treatment. According to psychiatrist Arthur Guerra de Andrade, a professor at São Paulo University in Brazil, only 30 percent of those treated in clinics recover from drug addiction. Thus, parents must take an active interest in the recovery of their children, even when medical professionals are involved.
[Box/Pictures on page 7]
Help for Recovering Drug Abusers
Are you a youth trying to break free from drug abuse? If so, you will find that reading the Bible and applying what you read can help you in your efforts to recover. You may find it especially helpful to read the book of Psalms, as it expresses many of the painful emotions that you may be feeling now. Sincere prayer to God, really pouring out your innermost thoughts, will also help you. (Philippians 4:6, 7) You will begin to sense that he really cares for you and that he wants you to succeed. But since God does not force anyone to act against his own free will, it is essential that you truly desire to be drug-free. The psalmist David, who experienced God’s support many times, said: “I earnestly hoped in Jehovah, and so he inclined his ear to me and heard my cry for help. He also proceeded to bring me up out of a roaring pit, out of the mire of the sediment. Then he raised up my feet upon a crag; he firmly established my steps.” (Psalm 40:1, 2) Today those who desire to clean themselves up and serve God are supported in the same way.
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“My father warned us about the risks”—Alecxandros
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Take the time to warn your children about the physical and spiritual dangers of drug use
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Be aware of your child’s associates
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Handling matters calmly can prevent making a bad situation worse