Out of the mouths of babes

For the first time in Israel’s history, drug use is on the rise as much as 10.5% among teens.

A troubled teen drug user [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A troubled teen drug user [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A week ago, the Israel National Council for the Child put out a report that found that one in every three teens gets drunk once a month, and one in every 10 teens that drink or use drugs becomes addicted.
According to the Israel Anti Drug Authority, for the first time in Israel’s history, drug use is on the rise as much as 10.5% among teens. Kids interviewed in a Channel 1 newsclip last week shared that they feel more confident to speak freely when they are drunk and feel the need to escape through drug and alcohol use, unaware that there is anything wrong with finding ways to escape their reality.
So what is it we need to do to help make our kids’ reality a little better? Believe it or not, according to the teens and young adults I asked, many of the answers lie with parents. By knowing how to react to our kids, we can be the one they turn to, instead of turning to drugs and alcohol or to someone who would lead them in that direction.
One of the things that drive our kids away from us and toward other elements that give them the sense of security they feel they need is their sense that they are being judged by us.
On one hand, it is our job to show our kids the right direction to go in. We can take responsibility for what messages we give to our kids, but not for how our advice is taken.
We can’t know exactly what our kids are going through, but we can be aware of the signs that something is different.
As parents, we have clear views of what we want for our kids. We often see them as offshoots of ourselves, and as such have a hard time separating what they truly need for their own self-development from what we feel we need to impose on them.
It is often hard for us to understand their limitations.
They want so badly for us to treat them as adults, even at a young age. How do we give them the feeling that we trust them, yet at the same time not make them nervous that if they fail they have to hide that from us? Out of the mouths of babes, three young women had this to say: I need my parents to “listen to what I am saying, even if it seems ridiculous.”
Just the act of listening to our kids validates them as people, allowing them to feel worthy. Sometimes they will say ridiculous things just to test us. The more questions we ask, the more they feel listened to, and eventually the need to say outrageous things will subside.
“When I make mistakes, I don’t want my parents to get angry, just to understand and try to help me.”
Obviously this is a serious challenge, but often it just takes us divesting from the situation, realizing it is not about us and allowing them to learn from their mistakes, just as we did.
“Give me the space I need to handle what is on my mind.”
Parents often have a challenging time knowing how much space to give their kids. We just have to check our motives and make sure it is not about our need to control the situation.
“To always walk with me, hand in hand, and not to leave me when times get rough.”
Kids have a natural fear of abandonment. They fear being left, physically and emotionally. They need their hand held even tighter when they seem to be pulling away.
“Most important is to try to understand me; they were kids once and should understand what I am going through.”
Here is an example of something that is very challenging to parents, assuming they know their kids.
Again, ask questions to find out what is really going on. Even if we think we really understand, the act of communication is the most important thing. Allowing our kids to explain themselves to us is a true act of love. Having them hear out loud what they are dealing with can give them a sense of security, realizing that everything is manageable.
“Let them say to me, ‘I also went through this, and it will pass.’” As parents, we are perhaps too quick to suggest solutions.
Just saying we can relate and that only time can heal is a true act of surrender and allows our kids to gain strength as they deal with an issue.
“Treat me seriously, because the only difference between us is age.”
This seems silly on the surface, but if we tune into the heart of our young person, especially teens today, we will often find a wise old soul. This leads to the next request: “Trust me, I’m not little anymore. Please understand when you should get involved and when not to.”
Again a very hard thing for a parent.
We need to be aware of whether we are getting involved for their benefit or ours.
Their final request is well understood: “Parents need to tell their kids they believe in them and to compliment them more, even when they are failing. To be by their side, not leaving them to deal with things on their own. To provide them with the big three: belief, support and love.”
We often find ourselves babying our kids even when they are much too old to be babied. We have to look into our motivation for overprotecting our kids. Are we sincerely concerned about their well-being, or are we simply concerned about the results that will affect us? What happens when our child takes a wrong turn? How dangerous is it, truly? Or is it the best way for them to learn that their choices have consequences, either negative or positive, depending on the choice? Kids can admit that, often, what they share with us is not well thought out, but they need to believe they are being listened to regardless. We can simply shine a mirror in front of their face and share what we are seeing without judgment, as hard as that is for us to do.
The writer is a teen and young adult counselor specializing in addictions and working with youth and their parents for over 26 years, and is also the founder of the Sobar alcohol- free live music bar project for teens and young adults. jerusalemteencounseling@gmail.com; www.jerusalemteencounseling.net