Millions of families do a wonderful job of sharing their lives with the minimum of strife and inflicted pain. Millions more don't. And yet millions more do not see what is going on right under their noses so they have no idea whether pain and strife exist or not.
The reality is we operate in a complex and difficult family dynamic without the tools that are necessary for the peaceful and loving management of our families, friends and relatives.
The ability to pay attention and respond appropriately when needed is a critical skill. Why is this more important than Church, School, and a nice neighborhood with good friends?
Because the influences on our families, our children are many times not within our control. And even if they are we do not always deal with our own family members appropriately.
So the reality is mom and dad fight, do stupid things, have affairs, contradict their own advice on love and trust and relationships. There are drugs and alcohol abuse in schools, in neighborhoods, and secretly within families. Public leadership is rife with corruption, abuse and misconduct. The rule of law is no longer upheld for everyone equally. The attitude of what's in it for me is a common theme. Our children, and we as adults are bombarded with these contradictions of values daily.
Faced with all of this many children give up. They join peer groups that reflect their own frame of mind and no longer recognize adult guidance as anything to pay attention to, unless it comes with severe threat and a big stick. Of course the influence of "I am going to beat you within an inch of your life approach" never has any but negative long lasting effects. You still lose the children they just submit until out of range.
A child of any age lost to meth, cocaine or alcohol is a terrible waste. Children lost to human trafficking, street life, or prostitution is another horrible waste. This is obvious and yet the numbers are staggering. Without declaring another useless war on "anything bad", what can be done?
A child does not set out to destroy themselves but the path from beginner to lost soul is so short the child cannot stop it. Meth is a full fledged addiction on the first try. After a few weeks their skin crawls and they begin picking at it until small sores are everywhere they can reach. When a child wears long sleeves in 95 degree weather you have a strong hint the child is on meth. Extreme loss of weight, disappearing acts, missing things and money are all signposts. Failure to concentrate, dropping grades, missing homework, anger, the dazed "deer in the headlights" look.
The following behavior is common across all addictions - secretive behavior, missing money, incoherent conversation, fast talking, makes no sense, unexplained absence, friends parties, missing alcohol, will not communicate, constant lying and several other behaviors specific to certain drugs and combination of drugs.
When caught or confronted with their involvement in drugs or alcohol three things may happen: denial and extreme denial, crying and I am sorry I'll never do it again, I only did it a couple of times, I'm really ok. The correct frame of mind, they are lying and not to be trusted. They must enter into special programs: Anger management, and Drug and Alcohol Addiction. They must agree to random testing, including hair folicle tests, under supervision. Conversations with all of their friends to openly discuss what is going on (after you have been cleared by professionals). Secrecy within the family is not good.
Worst case? Suicide, car accident, jail, on the streets.. Best case? You keep trying to motivate the child to quit, with professional help.
Paying attention is easy to say, but it is the most difficult and important thing you can do. Paying attention without paranoia or undue suspicion requires from the parent a selfless act. The child must come first in a most profound way. Paradoxically the parent must live equally in two worlds. Their own world of growth and development, and the chiild's world of growth and development. To see and experience a child is an amazing thing. To see and experience yourself is an equally amazing thing. Both are important. The same skill and frame/state of mind that we have been discussing throughout this website works effectively in both worlds.
The Reality Is
Parents paying attention, parents living up to their marriage commitments, parents learning the skills of self awareness, means that a foundation is being built. This is a foundation that the children can anchor themselves to in an uncertain world. But when things go South, no matter how you have tried to pay attention and be aware. Process your guilt and remorse. Process your anger and disappointment. And then get busy, as best you can, saving your child with the understanding that failure is an option no matter what you do. This is a time for grief, but also of growth, for you and for your child.