Teens and substance use

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist

I am a mother of a child in grade seven. While he was in grades four, five and six, he was what I would call the ‘absolutely best son’ a mother could have. His grades were excellent and his behaviour was commendable. Since starting high school, I realise that my son has been changing and I can hardly recognise him these days. Last week, I found a ‘spliff’ and matches in his uniform pocket and he told me that it belonged to his cousin. I realise that he is not being truthful and that he is stealing from everyone in the household. His grades have fallen and his behaviour is rotten. Counsellor, I have had to beat him, but it does not make a difference. He back-talks a lot, even to his father. He has been skipping school and hanging out with young men in the community who are known idlers. I feel as if I am losing my child and I need help.
Yours truly,
Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,
It would appear that your son may be using marijuana. As you have shared in your letter, the changes you have been seeing are typical of a youngster who is using the substance: the ‘spliff’ and matches in his uniform pocket, the not being truthful, the stealing from everyone, the falling grades and his rotten behaviour. The changes you have shared are of concern, and rightly so. I suggest that you visit your son’s school and share with the guidance counsellor all that you have told me. The counsellor will be better able to make an assessment as to the underlying issues and treat them with a plan of action.

As much as possible, you ought to love your son even more and give him all your attention. Talking with him now, with compassion and patience, is one sure way of helping him through this stage of his life. I must encourage you and his father to resist the temptation of hitting him, as this will not solve the problem and may cause other issues to surface. The result may be resentment, further marijuana use and physical harm.

I empathise with your situation. Results from a drug-prevalence survey conducted by the National Council for Drug Abuse (NCDA) show that the use of substances, including alcohol, tobacco and ganja, continues to be significantly higher among males than females in Jamaica. The NCDA has an excellent programme that may help your child through this circumstance. They will test to confirm usage and help with the recovery process. They also offer counselling and resisting strategies to prevent a relapse.

The youth in your community need intervention as well. You may want to become an advocate to change these youth. If at all possible, seek assistance from other stakeholders. Request of the police in your area, their help in organising a police youth club to engage the youths in more productive activities. You may also engage the HEART/Trust NTA to do skills training, or even to organise sporting activities through your councillor – to build healthier interactions among the youth in your community in a positive way.

I understand that you feel like you are losing your son; however, individuals and agencies are easily accessible. Take heart that at this age, consistent care and positive regard ought to make a fruitful impact on his life, and that he will accomplish his fullest potential as a son and a student.
Best wishes.

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist karelle_hylton@yahoo.com

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