Forty-two years ago, in a period of relative innocence, I asked a recently graduated daughter who was soon to enter the University of Washington what she thought the most important social problem we faced as a nation. She quickly answered “Overpopulation”. I said yes, that is indeed a big problem, but I think drugs may be our Waterloo. Today, with more population and more drugs on the street, I have not changed my opinion. Both involve choices.
The basic social element in any society is family, but what is family? When life was simpler, it involved two parents and various children who were all related. Today there are so many variations of “family”, some of whom never sit down to a communal meal together, that it boggles the mind. But we are naive if we fail to recognize them as “family”. We are all looking for approval and support, and hopefully, love, and this is what family is supposed to supply.
Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. We all know the statistics by rote, but do parents actually think about the children of divorce when the heat of anger and self-pity is burning? In some cases, a good divorce is better than a bad marriage, and with mature caring parents who can work together in support of their children, it can actually work. Many years ago, I heard a young boy tell another who was lost and crying in the throes of his families’ breakup, “But you will have two houses, two Christmases, etc.” It never works out that way. Mostly, one parent is driven away by a bitter spouse, and somethimes sees the child rarely. Then new step-parents and half-siblings become a part of the child’s life as well, which further complicates matters. What then has become of the child who was? Where does she fit into the family?
Since the two people who were supposed to care for her parted, it surely must be some fault within her which caused it. Otherwise they would never have left her. So she looks for friends who can understand her problem, (perhaps having the same difficulty with self-approval), and as we have seen, there are far too many of them around. The local Malls are great places to meet friends, as is Facebook, parties, and of course, school. Whichever parent has custody is busy working , or just busy with Life. Too busy for schoolwork, other children, or just talking. They quickly lose touch with the child’s life, but she keeps seeking someone who understands and cares about her. The sad part about this is that the parent has no idea that things have changed. That somehow this child has grown apart from them, and they never noticed. Some children are indeed fortunate in having adored and adoring grandparents who live nearby, but even then it’s difficult to see changes.
The drug culture is rampant, and thrives not only in urban and suburban areas, but surprisingly in the farmlands of the Midwest and South, and in deeply evangelical communities all over the country. Where do the drugs come from? Are there shady people hiding near the corners ready to pounce on unsuspecting kids? We are all familiar with “Drug Cartels”, Mexican gangs, etc. Surely, we have taught our innocent children to avoid these people, and “Just say no” as Nancy Reagan so naively put it. Easy to say, and if this were the way drugs were presented, it would be easy to do. But the kids give/sell it to themselves. If you give me some, I may split it up and sell the rest, thus insuring that I can get more. Besides, pot smoking is fun. Everyone says so. Older kids think it is a lark to “turn on” some younger child, just to see his reaction, and lo and behold, he likes the effect. Parties are a wonderful place to share new drugs, and soon there is a real “pharmeceutical representative” born. Prescription drugs stolen from parents, such as vicodin and oxicontin, both highly addictive, bring a high price. The astonishing thing is the young age our children are falling prey to the addiction. Age ten and eleven is not unusual, long before their young brains have formed .
Are all these children victims of divorce and abandonment? Of course not. They come from the “projects” as well as children of high society parents, and everything in between. Wherever kids gather, it is a possible threat, unless SOMEONE IS LOOKING OUT FOR THEM! But the so-called “troubled” children are most vulnerable.
Once addicted, can these young children recover? There are Rehabilitation facilities all over the country, where those who can afford it may go for 30-60 days of counseling, sometimes in a “12-step program”. And afterwards they must go to a daily meeting with their counselors, perhaps forever. It may take more than 30-60 days to “cure” the problem in which case the child lives with another “family” group of fellow addicts. They are given a mentor whom they can call on at any time they feel they may slip back into the morass. In these days of cell phones, and social networking, it is so difficult to isolate a victim from those who would drag her back into the Dark Side.
The effect upon the family is catastrophic and expensive and the outcome unsure. It becomes all about choices. And of course, a great deal of love. There are so many successes, and we all pray for the same success with our troubled children. KEEPING KIDS SAFE IS OUR JOB!! When does childhood end? Di it ever begin?