Parents have to be the rudder when it
The Role of a Parent in a Shifting Culture
By Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Lamperti Counseling & Consultation
October 22, 2014 marked the issuing of medical marijuana cards, including “hardship cultivating” permissions, to your neighbors and mine here in Massachusetts.
As of April 2014, 23 states in the United States have legalized marijuana for some level of recreational and/or medical use.
According to well-known researchers, such as The Pew Research Center as well as votes cast at the polls, over half of the US population favors ideas like legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of use and possession.
Conversely, just over half polled indicated that they would be bothered by public use of marijuana. Many argue about issues like the “gateway drug” issue, increased use in children and such as encouraging a culture of “burn-outs.”
Marijuana has been around for a very long time. There is a considerable amount of research about this substance. Issues have been studied such as it relates to treating; nausea and vomiting, HIV/AIDS, pain, neurological problems, cancer, dementia, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, Tourette syndrome and others.
Marijuana (Cannabis) is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, meaning, it is in the schedule classified as “the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” ~DEA Drug Schedules
While adults debate these issues, vote on them and conduct research, and laws change, families…parents, are left with the tall task of how to handle the real-time/real-life impact of views on marijuana with their children.
In order for parents to address this issue in their home, as it comes up or ahead of the curve, parents need to carefully analyze their own opinion, experiences and beliefs about marijuana. The same needs to be done with topics involving other drugs (prescribed and illicit), alcohol, sex and any other important issue that faces your children.
Back to my opening sentence, about licenses being issued for “hardship cultivating” and buying. In real-time, what does this look like for families? I can tell you first-hand, based on some of the work I do in my private practice.
· The child may become naturally inquisitive about the parent’s new interest in plants.
· What should the parent call the plant?
· At what age is it obvious to the child what kind of plant it is?
· Is it a secret?
· What if mom/dad has a “card?” Is it a secret then?
· Mom/dad is smoking parts of that plant. Is that a secret?
· Mom/dad is making “special butter” with parts of that plant. Can I use the butter? I wonder what will happen if I eat the butter?
· What should I tell my friends if they come over and ask about the plant, or the butter?
· Mom/dad is smoking part of that plant and they make me go outside. I’m tired of having to go outside every day after school.
· Mom/dad is smoking part of that plant and I breathed in some of the smoke and now I feel funny. What’s happening to me?
· Should mom/dad be driving me after she/he smokes?
· Mom/dad looks/acts different after they smoke. It makes me feel uncomfortable. They have a “card” though.
I could go on and on about what this issue brings into my office, and not just from “those” people, but from children like yours and children like the children that your children are best friends with.
Alcohol is an enormous problem and drugs even more so. But this issue of marijuana is on such a fine line because it falls into so many opposing categories depending on the person and the circumstances; potentially good for you, potentially bad for you, illegal, legal, right, wrong, secret, open, shameful, entitled….
This is my concern. Set aside all of the controversy and look just at the impact within the family. Study after study shows that parents are the most influential force on their children when it comes to beliefs, morals and values.
I implore each of you to think this topic through, and think it through again and again. Just because a law has been passed, or because licenses are being given out, or because people can legally “light up” and partake of the psychoactive and physiological effects does not mean you as a parents have think a certain way. You are the rudder in the turbulent sea of the culture. Just because “most” people (more than 50%) are doing it or believe in it, doesn’t make it right, or at least we can say, it doesn’t make the matter a simple one.
Just a few points to remember;
· It is shown again and again that parents have a much greater influence on their children’s belief system than parents give credit to.
· The longer a child goes without being exposed to drugs and alcohol, the less likely they will be to develop their own addiction at a later time.
· The longer a child delays experimentation with drugs or alcohol the more likely they are to avoid addiction at a later time.
· Studies show that a child’s brain continues to develop well into their 20s. Exposing developing brains to foreign substances, including drugs and alcohol has consequences that are not fully understood, but common sense dictates that a developing brain should be given the best possible chances for full and healthy development.
· There are many answers to every problem. To see a drug as THE answer to a problem is very short-sighted and indicates low level thinking, NOT the kind of thinking we want to instill in our children.
May you be blessed by many opportunities in the car, around the dinner table, and lots of others to experience joy and connection to your amazing children!
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Lamperti Counseling & Consultation
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
It’s not necessarily about how you handle one specific situation or the next, it’s more of a mindset, one that demonstrates intelligence, responsibility and character.
Mixed messages and being wishy-washy only leaves our children having to decide in each specific experience if it is ok or not.
Each parent has to decide what message they want to send their child about drugs.
1. You must live a life that is congruent with the things that you are telling your child. It doesn’t work to say, “Don’t be a smoker like me.” It doesn’t work to say, don’t take drugs and then make a family joke about how mommy (or daddy) can’t “deal” until their second cup of coffee.
2. Multigenerational back up. If you have parents or grandparents that are “old school” about not going to the doctor and not taking medication, encourage them to find ways to talk about this with your child. Alternatively, you can talk with your child about how Grandpa never goes to the doctor and never takes medicine.
3. If you are going to partake recreationally and/or to excess– hide it for as long as possible. Give your children the gift of being able to tell their friends, “I didn’t grow up being exposed to drugs and alcohol.” “My mom (dad) doesn’t……”
4. When your child gets a fever, reach for the cold compresses, lavender pillows, favorite movie, blanket and pillow. Teach your child that there are things they can do when they feel miserable with illness besides take medicine. Give them opportunities to practice this. If they are due for their dose of children’s Tylenol or cough medicine at 6 pm, teach them that it will serve them much better if they take it right before going to bed. No one promised any of us a life without suffering. Teach them that they can get through the difficult 2 hours.
5. Explain that each of us have been given a body that is leap years beyond any machine that humans have designed. Teach them that their uncomfortable fever is doing an important job. Teach them that their body works in miraculous ways every minute of every day to keep the constant bombardment of germs and toxins from making them sick.
6. Be wise about reaching for antibiotics and do the research on antibacterial hand lotion. Do not withhold medicine from your child when they are sick. I myself am guilty of waiting too long to go to the doctor and ending up with a respiratory infection that was much too hard to cure. But be careful about sending a message that the going to the doctor is the answer.
7. Consider behavioral, sensory and emotional intervention and seek professional support extensively prior to any trial of medication, ESPECIALLY with children. Despite how these meds are being promoted, there really are not conclusive longitudinal studies available yet with many of them. But aside from that, there are alternatives. Seek them thoroughly. I have already seen the shift with countless teens and adults who wholeheartedly believe that there is something wrong with their biology and they need meds. Children who get the message early on that their mood and focus needs to be altered chemically are set up for challenges later on.
8. Whether a child is physically sick or emotionally distraught, look to the FIVE senses. The changes that happen in the brain when we smell a sent that is beautiful to us, or touch something that feels wonderful, or listen to something that sounds heavenly are well documented. Teach your child to “change their state with their senses.
9. How many ways can you think of to have fun? When we teach children about good, healthy entertainment, they have a much better chance of becoming teens that seek good, healthy entertainment. Children that experience entertainment through video games and TV will be more likely to expect to receive this passive entertainment.
10. Be careful of the attitude, “everyone is doing it.” Whether we are talking about meds for our “ADHD” child or marijuana smoking for our 15 year old, everyone is NOT doing it, and neither does your child have to.
11. Even though your child might be 16, you still have the right to have expectations and set limits. They want to get their license? You are perfectly within your rights to go to CVS and buy the drug testing kit. IF they test positive, then NO, they should not be driving and you should NOT be signing their application for their driver’s license. If they have their license already and are testing positive, yes, you can take away the car keys, until they test negative, even if it’s their car. Your job as parent isn’t done yet and they do have to follow your expectations, if you actually expect them to.
12. Talk to them. Does your child seem “off?” Keep the dialog open. Maybe this is a little off topic, but I will never forget this experience. I was working for DCF (formerly DSS) and sitting at the kitchen table with a mom that was reported for being passed out intoxicated while caring for her children. She was sober when I was with her at her. Her daughter (elementary age) got off the bus and came in the house sad. Her mom lovingly asked how her day was and since she looked sad, asked if she was ok. The young girl opened up about how she had been teased on the bus. Her mom sincerely said, “I’m so sorry that happened.” She gave her daughter a hug and asked her to tell her about it. The girl opened up. ~That’s an anti-drug campaign right there! Teach a child to open up and share their feelings. Give them the time and space and attention to let them know that you really care. The mom didn’t need to fix it for her. She needed to validate her feelings. A job well done by a mom who was drowning her own feelings in the bottle.
13. Do everything possible to keep your marriage strong. The research is clear that children of divorce are more vulnerable to difficulties with drugs and alcohol.
14. Keep all medication secure. People are robbing houses to get to meds. Teens and even children are looking in their parents/friend’s parents medicine cabinet for drugs. Consider WHICH meds your feel need to be secured and secure them. Buy an “ammo can” or other suitable, lockable case. But furthermore, tuck it away in a closet somewhere that the kids won’t even be asking, “What’s in that box?” Not that I’m generally classifying these things together, but use the box for other things that the children should not have access to; sex toys, “adult” movies and video games, books, etc. Don’t create a situation for yourself where you have to explain.
15. Set a pattern of family dinners and keep them going. Studies show that children that experience pleasant meals and interaction during family dinners are less likely to use drugs and alcohol (or engage in sex).
16. Know your kids friends and their parents. Make it clear to other parents, “You see my kid doing the wrong thing, I want to know about it!” A wise friend once said, “I don’t expect that my kids aren’t going to do the wrong thing, I just pray that they get caught quickly.”
17. I’m going to throw up! Teach your child that they always have your permission to stand up for what is right, but that sometimes it is hard. If they find themselves in one of those hard spots and don’t know how to get out of it, tell them that it is one of the only times they have your permission to lie. Tell their friends, “I don’t feel so good. I think I’m going to throw up. I better call my mom/dad.”
18. Get your child involved in Scouting. Studies show that youth who are or once were involved in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts are less likely to use drugs and alcohol than their peers who were not involved.
19. Keep the dialog going. Start early talking to your children about their amazing brain and their amazing body. Encourage them to take good care of it. From the fact that they get practice teeth and for the rest of their life teeth, to the foods on their plate, the number of jumping jacks they can do and the academic progress they are making…praise them and praise their body and mind.
20. It will never lead to something good. When examples present themselves, as they will, of the destructive effects of drugs and alcohol, use them as opportunities for straightforward discussions. It’s not good to be wishy-washy OR silent on these matters that we know our children are witnessing.
I hope you have taken at least a couple of things from this list of 20 that you can focus on and use more actively. You may have more ideas. Please post them for all of us here.
If I can be of any assistance with issues like this in your life, please contact me. As I said in my last post, I am not anti meds for children. But I will say, I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve as alternatives to meds. I have helped a great many families stabilize difficult behavioral and emotional symptoms over just a 6 week period.
****I am not a physician or medical professional. None of the advice here should be construed as medical advice or take the place of a visit to your doctor where called for.
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
I am guessing that there are MANY mommies following that remember the slogan, “Just say no!”
There are lots of social/emotional reasons that make just saying no to drugs difficult, like peer pressure and the fact that studies consistently show that children of divorce/conflict ridden or detached homes are more likely to reach for drugs and alcohol.
But today, we see a host of other factors that make “Just Say No” a mixed up message for children.
1. The psychopharm world has EXPLODED with new drugs, a higher rate of prescribing drugs, a claim that drug “cocktails” (interesting choice of terms) can help people with the emotional issues. And bonus, kids on meds make the lives of parents and teachers “easier.”
2. CHILDREN are the target of psychopharm companies. Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. More than 80% of children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder take prescription medications at some point to treat their symptoms, according to a new nationwide survey of parents by Consumer Reports Health. More than half had tried 2 or 3 different meds. (Citations at end of post.) My colleague, RN NP informs me that the authorization process for med visits is practically non-existent. I can tell you that the authorization process for psychotherapy is arduous. In fact, when I request session for practically any diagnosis these days, I have to answer to the question, “Have you referred the client for a med consult?” And if the answer is no, then I have to answer, “When do you plan to?” or “Why not?”
3. The DARE program is basically gone. As a psychotherapist, I used to see many children who were able to articulate that drugs are bad for you, BECAUSE of what they learned in school in the DARE program. Studies indicate that there was a so-called “boomerang effect” and the program led to a higher incidence of drug use among youth later in life who participated in the program.
4. Drug/alcohol use has seen a cultural shift where we now think of it NOT as a weakness, morally wrong thing to do, issue to be embarrassed about…but as an “illness” or a “genetic disorder.” Our children are getting the message, “poor guy (girl). It’s not their fault.” Interestingly, we are also hearing children who missed their morning dose for ADHD and misbehave, say, “It’s not my fault. My mom forgot to give me my meds.”
5. We are required to have insurance, so why not use it? We tend to run to the doc for medicine before even giving our bodies a chance at healing illnesses. We don’t slow down and take care of ourselves or our loved one, we reach for a pill to get back to our fast pace as quickly as possible, or get our children back to school so we can get back to work. These are practical needs these days. Who can afford to miss work??
6. Marijuana, a drug known for causing “the munchies,” uproarious laughter, dulling of our senses, laziness, etc., is being legalized one bit at a time, one area at a time. Many adults haven’t even gotten it clear in their own mind about whether it should be legal or not and under what circumstances, but somehow we are supposed to help our children understand and teach them not to do it. Huh??
7. Speaking of marijuana, a parents smokes up in the house with the children present, the Department of Children and Families (formerly DSS) gets involved (I’m speaking from professional experience now) and the parent doesn’t even get a clear message, “That’s not permitted! At least smoke in private, away from your children.” Yet, other states are making it illegal to smoke cigarettes in the car when a child is present.
8. And the courts…(again, speaking from professional experience) are ruling on custody matters as serious as parents giving birth to drug addicted babies, and parents addicted to and abusing Suboxone (or methadone – sub in any drug you want). And what about when the parent in question is taking Suboxone as prescribed at “the clinic.” Or how can the judge tell if they are taking it per doctor’s orders, in addition to on the street?
We, as parents, as a culture, are being pressured to accept drugs (and alcohol) and their abuse as part of our everyday lives! It’s a steady race to the bottom and this country might just be in the running for a top spot.
Now, for those who are going to accuse me of blaming them because either they are taking prescription medication or their children are taking it for a mental health diagnosis, I have the following to say:
I am not anti-meds. I have seen adults who were debilitated with anxiety or depression or other issues, begin seeing a psychiatrist or PCP and take medication. They were able to stabilize, regroup and get their life back on track. I am grateful for this and grateful for the option to be utilized. I have seen children who are so out of focus or anxious and in crisis that medication has been instrumental in keeping them in school and helping them and their parents regroup.
I am referring here to a cultural shift that has already taken place and continuing to progress toward reliance on doctors, psychopharm companies, medications, etc. I know there is a huge fascination with zombies presently. I can’t figure that out either. It’s looking to me like we are moving more and more to being like zombies or robots and forgetting that what seems at first glance like the smoother-easier route, is really just our participating unwittingly in the race to the bottom.
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