Roberta M. Helming: Child Drug Abuse: Seek Help, Love Your Child, Yourself

There are two major issues that young people face that are often connected – being bullied and becoming drug or alcohol addicted. Teens face tremendous challenges as they attempt to grow up in an often difficult world. Unfortunately many of their issues begin with a long period of being bullied.

Recent studies show that 77 percent of youth are bullied. Bullying comes in three main forms: mental, verbal and physical abuse. The young people most commonly singled out are often shy, insecure and physical abuse and are known as “nerds” or “loners.”

Unfortunately after being bullied for a long time, with no relief, addictive behaviors often form. An addiction must be dealt with quickly often by placing a child in a drug or alcohol facility, something tremendously difficult for parents – a crushing blow. It needs to be done with love, support and suspended judgment.

In times such as these, parents need to be tough and strong, yet without ignoring the need to be vulnerable, acknowledging their own fear, anger and frustration. Parents aren’t expected to do this alone. Attempting to bond during such a time of need or finding their own professional help is positive – a place from which to draw strength.

Parents need to believe in themselves with regard to parenting skills. Addiction happens in families from all walks of life. Placing blame will accomplish nothing. It is an unfortunate reality in life. It won’t be easy, but parents and children can make it through to the other side side.

Parents, by the nature of what they do, face challenges in life. They need to allow the healing of hearts between parent and child. Be their rock – devoted to the child during their time of need and there is hope of a recovery.

Children need to learn by example that life is full of struggles, but there are rewards to be reaped for working through the most difficult issues in life – including an addiction. We need to stand by our children’s side and not be afraid to show that we’re struggling too, but we won’t give up, no matter what.

And while addiction is a horrible thing, the most amazing feeling is seeing a child overcome it and become a good student and citizen, and later, perhaps a good parent who learned from his parents what being a real parent means. Newly formed family bonds – this is the best thing to take away from an addiction.

In placing a teen in a facility for care of an addiction, we’re doing the most loving, supportive thing for them. And perhaps when older, they’ll understand our actions and will be grateful to us for finding them the help they needed, leading them to a healthier, happier, meaningful life.

There are many reasons why drug and alcohol addiction occurs in the adolescent population, but bullying is a major one. As parents, we need to learn the signs of a victim of bullying and in so doing be able to address the issue with the child – letting them know they’re not going through this alone.

By being pro-active with regard to such a long standing issue - bullying, we can help our child know that bullying is not cool and that they are stronger when they don’t retaliate and worse – turn to drug or alcohol abuse.

Because statistics show that one in seven students are either victims or bullies, neither educators nor parents can ignore the issues. Denying it leaves victims traumatized and a high number feel the need to escape through addictive behaviors.

Further studies have shown that 15 percent of all absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school. Skipping school will almost always leave to destructive behavior.

Teachers and parents should consider establishing forums where children can speak out about being bullied. In drawing attention to the problem in this manner, young people stand a better chance of being empowered and “fighting back” in a constructive manner – a place of empowerment within themselves.

And let’s draw upon the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and in so doing teach our children that her words have real meaning and can empower them in a positive way.

Roberta M. Helming