CHILD REARING

Parents have a greater role in ending drug abuse

In Summary
  • The process of socialisation of children by their parents is a key foundation for the protection and prevention of substance abuse during adolescence
  • During the long closure, parents came face to face with the reality of trying to keep energetic and restive teens caged at home.
An addict smokes heroin. Photo/REUTERS
An addict smokes heroin. Photo/REUTERS

Schools countrywide are about to close and some learners are preparing to sit the national examinations. The devastating effects of the nine-month-long ‘holiday’ – closure to contain Covid-19 – were forcefully thrust to the fore when schools reopened in January.

There was widespread unrest, mainly in secondary schools. There were indications that this might have been as a result of mental health issues emanating from, among others, drugs and substance use and abuse by the learners.

In the case of behavioural management in children and the youth, parents expect the school to address all challenging issues. They blame bad behaviour on the ban of corporal punishment in schools while teachers blame parents for abdicating their role in child-rearing. 

The process of socialisation of children by their parents is a key foundation for the protection and prevention of substance abuse during adolescence. Research has shown that children who are raised using an authoritative parenting style are less likely to use drugs as adolescents, present fewer behavioural problems, use better coping strategies and are more resilient when faced with challenges.

However, despite their high self-esteem, behavioural problems and substance abuse are higher among children who have been raised using a tolerant parenting style. 

During the long closure, parents came face to face with the reality of trying to keep energetic and restive teens caged at home. They were inducted, the hard way, into what it takes to ensure that their school-going children are kept busy at home

Aggression among learners, if not properly monitored and addressed, is a clear manifestation of an underlying mental health issue. Sometimes children with aggravated levels of hostility end up abusing drugs to suppress the feelings or even validate their actions.

Substance abuse in parents increases the possibility of substance abuse by their children. This increase in risk of addiction results from both genetic and environmental factors. Families with a parent with addiction are generally harmful, unpredictable, chaotic, and disorganised.

According to the World Health Organization, half of mental health conditions start by the age of 14 but most cases are undetected and untreated. Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents and suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.  

During the long closure, many parents complained of having to contend with drug use and abuse within the home either by adults or the very children they were trying to keep busy. This was also occasioned by the fact that bars and other alcohol dispensing outlets had been closed. 

While it is true that teachers have a role to play in imparting knowledge and the ultimate well-being of children, parental responsibilities in the behaviour management process far outweigh that which is expected from the instructors. Parents have a role to nurture and keep children safe and healthy while also helping them grow into independent and well-adjusted young adults.

Various triggers lead to behaviour change in children and young adults. They can range from anger, anxiety, fear of failing exams, addictive behaviours (pornography, masturbation, alcohol and drug use) among others. Studies have shown that 90 per cent of substance users have started using substances before the age of 18 years.

Substance abuse in parents increases the possibility of substance abuse by their children. This increase in risk of addiction results from both genetic and environmental factors. Families with a parent with addiction are generally harmful, unpredictable, chaotic, and disorganised.

Parents with substance abuse not only have fewer parenting skills, but also have less control and supervision over their children. Moreover, the parent-child interaction quality is not satisfactory and more parent-child conflicts are observed in such families. These issues can have negative effects on the socialisation process (social skills training) of the child.

What is more, studies have shown that interventions in parenting style in at-risk groups have had positive effects on children. Early interventions increase protective factors (positive parent-child interaction and parental behaviour) and decrease subsequent risk factors at older ages.

Corporate communications manager, National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse