Parental attitudes towards substance use impact teens

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The Metlife foundation recently sponsored and released a study about teen’s drug and alcohol abuse patterns.  The key finding in this study is that Hispanic teens are forty precent (40%) more likely to abuse drugs/alcohol than their Caucasian and Black peers.  The study attributed two (2) things to this increased likelihood: 1) Hispanic teens are less afraid of drugs than their peers; and, 2) Hispanic parents are less likely to monitor their teens; activities than other parents.  The study goes on to say that its findings place a heavy burden on Hispanic parents to become more engaged with their kids and provides some links aimed at Hispanics about drugs/alcohol.

Now, whether or not this study is right, I think it only makes sense to understand the culture of all teens.  Really, all teens tend towards being heavily influenced by their friends.  Really, belonging is  such a strong need during adolescence…

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Are parents to blame for their kid’s addiction?

As both a parent and an Addiction Treatment provider, I totally understand how hard people blame their kids’ addiction on themselves.  When our kids go down unhealthy paths, it’s really easy to convince ourselves that it’s our fault and that we’ve failed as parents when our kids become addicted to drugs and alcohol.  But the truth is that every single person on the planet is responsible for themselves and, especially in America, we have choices, even if limited by circumstances, to choose the paths we follow.

The reality is that individual psychologies are layered and complex.  There’s so much about those psychologies that are formed by people, places, and genetics that there’s no way ANYONE is responsible for ANYONE else’s path.  Because each personality exists ONLY in a respective mind, no one can account for another’s mental constructs and perceptions.  That being said, I know how hard it is for a parent to separate himself from his kid’s behavior, whether “good” or “bad.”

As a parent, I’ve beamed when my son has won awards and I’ve hung my head in deep shame when my son’s “messed up” I blame myself and say things like, “If only I didn’t get angry and yell, then he’d be more inclined to listen to me.” But, in either good or bad situations, my son’s world exists in his mind and NOT in mine and although we might share some circumstances, the reality is that he doesn’t know my inner world any more than I truly know his.

We all have that limitation: No one knows our values and meanings and no one really knows how someone else perceives his or her own reality.  We all only know ourselves, and even then, most people don’t really take the time or spend the energy to understand their own inner reality. 

Because of that simple truth, I do my best to separate myself as a parent from my son’s reality.  He has his world, and I have mine. Parents of addicts also have to separate themselves from their kid’s addictions because there’s no way they’re responsible for it or are to blame for its development.  Although we, as parents, HATE seeing our kids suffer or struggle, we can do our best to help them find health, but we can never, ever own their addiction or allow ourselves to be blamed for it.

Addicts who are active in their addiction know how to exploit love.  They also know that their parents can be targeted for resources to maintain the addiction.  But we have to find the courage and strength to let our kids live the lives they build for themselves. Otherwise, we place ourselves at risk of fighting battles we can’t win and forsaking those which we can.  No one’s life is EVER someone else’s responsibility.

Parental attitudes towards substance use impact teens

The Metlife foundation recently sponsored and released a study about teen’s drug and alcohol abuse patterns.  The key finding in this study is that Hispanic teens are forty precent (40%) more likely to abuse drugs/alcohol than their Caucasian and Black peers.  The study attributed two (2) things to this increased likelihood: 1) Hispanic teens are less afraid of drugs than their peers; and, 2) Hispanic parents are less likely to monitor their teens; activities than other parents.  The study goes on to say that its findings place a heavy burden on Hispanic parents to become more engaged with their kids and provides some links aimed at Hispanics about drugs/alcohol.

Now, whether or not this study is right, I think it only makes sense to understand the culture of all teens.  Really, all teens tend towards being heavily influenced by their friends.  Really, belonging is  such a strong need during adolescence that it only makes sense that all parents should be aware of the potential of peer influence and understand their teen’s behavior.  However, to make an implication that Hispanic parents need to do a better job than Caucasian or Black parents almost suggests that Hispanics aren’t very good parents.  This is total crap to me because, as a Hispanic parent of a teen, I think it’s just as important for me to be engaged with my son as it is for a buddy of mine, who’s a Caucasian parent of a teen.  We’re all in this thing together and I’m not convinced of the hidden blame with the study’s findings.

Really, it’s up to everyone to eradicate the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse. Period.  While the parent-teen relationship is critical (regardless of race), almost as important is the teacher-teen relationship, the counselor-teen relationship, the Uncle-teen relationship, etc.   We ALL need to monitor teens’ behaviors as adults.  We ALL need to watch for changes in friends, clothes, and music preferences (among other changes in behaviors).  But first, ALL ADULTS need to understand that we are in fact role models and we should seek our own health such that we can then model that health for our teens.  To suggest than any one group is more responsible for teen development than any other group is to almost provide a veil to mask everyone’s responsibility.

I am my son’s keeper.  I pray and hope that I set him on a good and strong path.  But, I also hope that ALL parents, regardless of race, also want the best for their kids.  Parenting should be race-neutral.  We should all want the best for teens, as in the Whitney Houston once sang, they are in fact our future.  We should help shape that future to the best of our abilities.

The article and study can be found here: Metlife Study.