How to help kids prevent and recover from risks involving drugs, sex and bullying

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Return to Table of Contents 2013 Fall Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Jon Daily,LCSW, CADCII, Director of Recovery Happens, adolescent substance abuse treatment center in Fair Oaks and Davis, just released a book: Adolescent and Young Adult Addiction. Daily encourages parents to understand that addiction is a pathological relationship to intoxication, not to the drug.

The most common things that parents would be surprised to see on their child’s mobile devices and apps are:

  • Gossip
  • Sexting (sexually explicit photos of self and others)
  • Bullying

By the same token, the cyber-powered peer communities our children navigate make it amazingly easy for young folks to acquire drugs and alcohol as a requirement for having a good time, and to truly believe that use and abuse of drugs and alcohol is so normal and expected to cope with stress. The intensity of substance abuse our children witness and experience today happens at younger ages and far exceeds that of previous generations.

And for the parent, this is especially challenging because mobile devices and apps enable children to keep risky situations, decisions and circumstances hidden while in plain sight at the dinner table or in the car.

Whether your child has suffered trauma from bullying, being exploited sexually,  failed relationships due to cyber-powered gossip and betrayal, or suffers from addiction to drugs, porn or devices and apps including video gamming, our challenge as parents is to respond to the human condition with a heart at peace so that  your child can believe you are a trustworthy resource for prevention and recovery support. Parents who criticize others outted for risky choices and conduct (such as sexting or drug abuse), for example, send strong signals to your own child that is is not safe to talk about what is happening in their world on and off line without fear of retribution; and then it is not possible to impart wisdom. It is not possible to provide the prevention and recovery support kids need from parents for all the experiences in their life that make up critical decision points impacting their personal security.  So I have come to appreciate the following clarification for the modern parent when it comes to understanding our role in prevention and recovery for all of the risks life presents our children:

  • Prevention and recovery are the arms of God’s love. It is a big bear hug that wraps our compassion around the person who is our child; it is our passion for our child to be free from the bondage of any relationship that keeps them aimed far away from the heart of a healthy relationship with God and family.
  • The big question for the modern parent is: what do you believe about the human condition?  Really, how do you perceive sin? Is it a judgy thing that does not apply to you and your child? Do you believe that your sincere parenting will guarantee your child will be safe from the pitfalls? How do you understand the mighty, cyber-powered pressures of the world that intensify bullying, addiction and exploitation?

***

Last spring I attended a parent training sponsored by Davis Parent University, in Davis, California about drug trends and youth addiction.  The keynote presentations were delivered by Jon Daily, of Recovery Happens in Fair Oaks, California, and author of Adolescent and Young Adult Addiction, and  Kaiser physician, Dr. Dean Blumberg, MFT, CADC, based out of San Francisco.

What Daily and Blumberg shared was more than the clinical details of how drugs impact the young brain. They shared insights about the fundamentals  of chemical addiction prevention and recovery as simply the proper alignment of relationships, which I interpret as:  God, family, and friends.  In my view, this is a model that works for all aspects of the human condition which entail suffering (including anxiety and 0ther mental health issues).

They went into great detail about the nature of chemical dependency and how it impacts the brain and how getting high becomes the number one priority for someone who is addicted; being intoxicated becomes the new norm that the brain seeks.

However, Daily further encourages parents to understand that the nature of chemical dependency and addiction is actually a relationship issue: in order to become addicted you must have a pathological relationship to intoxication.  Accordingly, one of the common misperceptions of parents whose children have fallen into drug addiction is the belief that rehab will fix them and that once they detox, they will recover.

The question we need to ask is: recover from what? The underlying premise or motivation to get high still needs to be addressed.

Angela Chanter, PsyD., Therapeutic Solutions 360, in Roseville, Ca. “The interesting back side to too much independence is underlying anxiety that the youth are ‘bigger’ than their parents. Kids need alpha parents who honor the wisdom their children do possess, [and who] set clear and fair expectations.” More from Dr. Chanter on the “alpha parent”.

“What parents need to understand is that it is not about the drug,” Daily said. “Addiction is about developing a pathological relationship with intoxication and it doesn’t really matter which drug.”  He explains further that if a child is abusing marijuana or alcohol, and that substance is removed they will pursue another drug or chemical in order to get high.

A primary example of this truth is that we are witnessing a rise in heroin addiction once the oxytocin pharmaceutical was made difficult to abuse.

According to Daily recovery from chemical addiction is a matter of re-setting priorities about family relationships, education and friendships which happens when there is bonding with the parents.  In this regard, a major artery of Daily’s practice  along with Dr. Angela Chanter and the therapists at Therapeutic Solutions 360 in Roseville, centers around helping parents and adolescents struggling with addiction to address the trauma underpinning anxiety and the pathological relationship to addictive behavior.

***

So prevention and recovery from any condition that involves suffering is an inside job; it is a decision that the individual must make, it cannot be made for him. We cannot operate our children by remote control, with iPhones or tracking apps or lectures and threats, but we can be a positive influence to inspire them to choose what is pleasing, good and true.  “Listen to what the kids have to say and limit what you have to say,” Blumberg said. “Listening to children helps them hook up natural neuroconnections [in the brain] and strengthen them. ”

Indeed, the best antidote to addiction is a healthy relationship. Sometimes this requires more patience and faith than a parent could ever imagine was possible.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The archery lessons of God’s love

There is nothing new under the sun and wisdom (James 1:5) tells me that the human condition is a training ground for what it means to express and experience the power of God’s love as boundaries that liberate the individual.

And so I prefer to view sin as an archery term signifying anything that is outside of the bull’s-eye: the heart of God where there is perfect peace and no fear. (See the Map of Sin.)

So on the map of sin, every one of lands somewhere. I believe we have been given intelligent life and free will to learn what it means to experience and express God’s love through the archery lessons of prevention and recovery.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:5

We are all subject to poor decisions, disease, and the traps of nefarious and malicious agendas. And so for me, the more I witness and experience God’s love as the genuine authority to overcome the adversity and receive with gratitude the good fortune of life, I seek to always be “in recovery” of something. Why? Because we are all of us easily influenced by untruth and distracted by things that don’t really matter. And the problems and adversity of life often present a crisis of belief with subtle undue influence away from the heart of God on the map of sin.

In this regard, while there is not a single one of us qualified to cast stones, fear of the devastation of drug abuse and the stigma of the individuals addicted to drugs or suffering from mental health issues leading to addiction, makes prevention and recovery more difficult to achieve at home and in our communities.

And all the children suffer for it.

***

Prevention and recovery boundaries as love language

It is helpful to think of prevention and recovery as a bob and weave, and ebb and flow that cradles your child with the boundaries that will help her learn how to exercise free will on the map of sin in secure ways. As our children make decisions and experience the consequences of their decisions, it is important to help them recover and stand corrected, rather than experience perpetual shame and keep secrets.

Shame happens whether we have done something wrong or not; it is a feeling of hopelessness and being unworthy that keeps us from seeking God’s love. So when our children must experience a consequence for making a poor choice, at any age, they need to know they have a clean slate with the parent – who has confidence in their ability to suffer the consequence, learn from it,  and make a better choice the next time, and the next time, and the next time.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, MFT, CADC at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. “Listening to children helps them hook up natural neuroconnections and strengthen them.”

Shame inspires hiding and prevents the open communication essential for cyber security. If we allow our children to experience shame as a way of training them, then they are encouraged to keep secrets which harbor risk and bondage.  For example, a daughter who sent a nude photo of herself to a love interest and is being bullied or exploited will find a way to act like everything is okay to her parents in order to avoid loss of esteem. Because of her humiliation she will do what she can to hide the trauma from her parents. No doubt pedophiles are counting upon humiliation and shame working in their favor. By the same token, youth who get hooked on drugs may feel too ashamed to ask for parent support in addressing their issues – shame deceives us into believing it is safer to keep a burden a secret, rather than expose it to the light of day in order to be liberated.

Overcoming shame and humiliation in order to stand corrected (i.e., repent) is the power of forgiveness in a family. We all have the authority to forgive, and our children need to know that forgiveness is possible in your home when they mess up, or fall into a risky trap.  It is not the same thing as excusing. Rather, it is not holding grudges and judging and disparaging children no matter how much they disappoint you, or how depraved their conduct, what laws were violated, no matter how angry, hostile, sullen and withdrawn.  Today more than ever, our children need to experience forgiveness as empowerment to get a fresh start; because we have the authority to forgive, we can deny the lie that has become an experience murdering truth. We can always decide to change our ways and commit to a path of recovery and prevention which aims towards the bull’s-eye of the heart of God.

Tips for becoming a trusted resource:

  • Be clear with your children that internet connectivity is a privilege, not a right, and it comes with great responsibility.
  • Personal security is not served by keeping secrets. Secrets harbor risky and unsafe circumstances and situations. Make sure your child appreciates that privacy is something individuals require to keep the world from knowing personal information and exploiting you. Parents respect privacy, but do not grant it because the parent has a duty to provide protective cover for the child until 18 years of age. Parents respect privacy by not sharing personal information without permission, and by not expecting to comment and lecture on everything you know about your child’s personal business.
  • Checking your own fear when you are setting expectations for conduct (house rules) and consequences.  A good way to check fear is to review what you believe and value with your child, and tie all of the house rules governing conduct at home around these beliefs and values, such as our civil liberty is a divine right so the home is place of training children how to use free will responsibly and guard personal security.
  • Resist the temptation to lecture your child about the things that you are concerned about.
  • If upon learning about the drug addiction or other issues made public of other people’s children, our response is to criticize and disparage them, our own children learn that it is not safe to share with you what is happening in their world, on and off line
  • Consider the discovery of risky conduct a blessing in disguise. Now you will have an opportunity to really get to know your child and strengthen your bond with her around the truth. Consider that on the map of sin, a lie becomes an experience that murders the truth. No matter what has happened or what your child has done, he is a magnificent son, the truth remains that she is a resilient blessing from God. That is the person to whom you are relating prevention and recovery signals.
  • The best antidote for addiction and anxiety is a healthy relationship which cannot be nurtured for the parent-child bond if parents are fearful and judgy about the risky choices people make – especially your own child.  So when you discover or suspect your child of engaging in risky behavior (such as drug abuse/use, sexting, or cyberbullying)  tame fear. After freaking out, calm yourself or you will put your child on the defensive and inspire a shame response that shuts down communication.  It is okay to let them see you suffer at first, but then calm down and get interested in being a resource of compassion for your child to learn the right lesson from the experience. Let your child tell you what happened. Listen without judging and get help with a merciful heart full of hope for the future. You and your child have the power to forgive what happened, encourage her to learn from the consequences, and change her course for higher ground with you in her corner.

Parent Resources

Proceed to next article: Don’t let a few bad apples and swing voters empower the cyberbully

Return to Table of Contents 2013 Fall Edition of Family Business Quarterly

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Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

 

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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