We live in a stressful world. Fentanyl-laced drugs have parents panicking. While drugs have been around forever, the level of anxiety, depression and self-harm that plagues our children and teens today has not. Many children are medicated. Trying to help out a friend, they often share their prescription drugs. That has put kids in a very vulnerable position.
First Line of Defense Against Fentanyl
Your first line of defense as a parent is a healthy and connected relationship with your kids. When your child expresses upset via meltdowns or attitude, it is often an indication that they have run out of tools in their emotional toolbox. They are usually overwhelmed, afraid or hurting.
As a society, we send our children to daycare at six weeks old. Did you know that 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, starting at age three? We push them forward, finding ways to change our kids (diagnoses, medication and/or punishments) instead of changing the environment. Fast forward a few years and our kids feel hopeless, misunderstood and angry. They don’t trust their parents so they find comfort in their peers.
When kids are struggling, our response needs to be one of patience, consistency and love. However, we often get frustrated (having not been taught to problem solve by our own parents), and instead we yell, give timeouts, ground them, remove devices and ultimately emotionally abandon and disconnect from them.
Many kids are just trying to cope. Others are looking to belong. With so many kids on meds, and feeling disconnected from themselves and others, it was years ago that they began trading and combining meds to find new ways of coping and/or having fun. Selling drugs became common on school campuses. Then we began seeing kids overdosing on things they didn’t even know they were taking. They trusted their friends, not knowing where the pills were coming from. Now Fentanyl, 50-100 times more potent than Morphine and Hydrocodone, is on board when kids think they are taking something else. This is tragic.
What Parents Can Do at Home
There are advocates fighting to stop this, but until it is stopped, parents need to know what they can do at home. Here are 5 things you can start with:
- Reduce your child’s stress at home and/or school so s/he is not looking for coping methods via drugs.
- Know your kids’ friends by being the house everyone wants to hang out at.
- Listen when they want to talk. Start early. When you listen to your two year old, you are teaching him/her how important they are to you. If you brush off your kids (at any age), you are missing the boat. Listening is the most important job in the season of raising children. That is how you open or close the doors of communication. If we are too busy or yell at them, they will find another avenue.
- Seek alternatives to diagnoses and medication. When our little ones are medicated early (and many are), they don’t have a chance to get to know their own body and what it feels like naturally. When they try to get off meds later in life, something feels off so they go back to the comforts of home (meds). Consider very carefully the possibility of dependency and/or addiction when considering medicating your child.
- Focus on the cause of behaviors and then work with your child (listening and strategizing) to find ways to overcome the obstacles being faced, without medication if/when possible. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Let’s change the environment and systems that no longer work instead of forcing our kids to conform to them.
If you are reading this and fear you have already missed your chance to have a healthy relationship with your child, you can start today. I don’t believe it is ever too early or too late to build a healthy parent-child relationship. If your child is struggling, you need to be that safe person they can go to. If you don’t know how to be that person, please reach out for support. We are here to assist you. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation today.
Traci Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She is known for her practical and intuitive approach to parenting. This article is intended to provide parents with support in the areas of communication and parent-child relationship building only. Traci is not an expert in drug abuse/misuse and recommends you do your own thorough research on such topics.