What you need to know:
Have they become moody, depressed, disinterested, aggressive or withdrawn? Any changes in children’s known behavioural pattern is a sign they are trapped in vices.
Every time I receive a call to go and conduct a counseling session in a school, it either is one or all of these vices to address; alcohol, sex, or drugs. Some children experiment in these delinquent activities because they want to feel accepted by their peers without knowing that they will possibly become addicted, drop out of school, get pregnant, contract STDs, or lose their lives. Hundreds, if not thousands, of our children are trapped in these vices.
Parents worry how they should protect their children from all this. Protecting your children may not be like shooting fish in a barrel but it is possible with a little effort, wisdom, and intentionality. This is how some parents who have been successful at protecting their children have done it:
Vet their friendships
If they are in preteen ages, you have an opportunity to guide them. Find out who your children’s friends are, who the parents to their friends are, and where they spend most of their time. Let them know what kind of their friends you will accept and those you will not. Be keen on which schools you take them to, and the neighbourhood you live in. Reject any friends or relatives or neighbours who do not subscribe to your family values.
Find teachable moments
When you are watching a movie and a bad boy shows up smoking weed, that right there is a teachable moment. Tell them that weed destroys their lungs and mental state. This way, you are communicating facts and risks about the drug and possibly deterring them from using them.
Expose them to Church
Research shows that “religiosity reduces suicide rates, alcoholism, and drug use.” Because church doctrine does not encourage these practices, and church offers a place for peer socialisation, where young people are preserved from these vices. Church is also a place where people are set free from drug-related addictions and taught self-control.
Discipline comes from the Latin word, discipulus which is the root word for the word disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. Simply put, discipline means “a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.” Do you have a set of rules governing your children or they are growing just like weeds? Do your children know boundaries? They need to know what is right before they can be reprimanded for what is wrong. The earlier you teach them the difference between the two, the easier vices will be nipped in the bud.
Limit their technology usage
We are in the information age where information has broken loose. You can get all you want at your fingertips. Children are getting access to inappropriate things such as pornography at a young age. Some programmes that contain intimate moments and violence are not good for their mental health. Restrict your children’s access to technology to reasonable limits and if it does not work, deny it altogether. You want your children to have healthy attachments to gadgets than be possessed by them.
Keep an eye on every child
When you hear of cases where some children have been abused by housemaids, gatemen, guards, uncles, aunts and visitors, you realise you need not to feel any shame in having a method to the madness. As a parent, you must be informed of what is happening in your own home. Some parents leave early for work in the morning and return late at night without a care of what is going on only to discover later that their children are exposed to stuff they neither like nor approve of.
Train them to be independent
Research shows that peer pressure is stronger in adolescence than in adulthood and on average, girls are more resistant to peer pressure than boys. A child who is secure in his own skin is hard to persuade into involvement in wrong things. A good parent must build their child’s self confidence by helping them build their ability to accept or reject peer pressures. How do you build their self-esteem? Listen to them, allow them some degree of liberty in making choices, task them with age-appropriate roles, and teach them to say “no” to things they do not like.
Monitor what they watch
If they are watching programmes on TV that idolise sex, substance abuse and all such vices and you are not correcting this wrong information or you are doing nothing to stop it, you are losing them. You will not be the parent that will patrol them with a big cane waiting to catch them on the wrong and hit them hard but if you empower them to know what to watch and what to keep away from; you may not have to police them.
As a parent you cannot be drinking and tell your children not to. Keep alcohol, drugs and loose sex away from your home. You must be the model of morality of how you want your children to behave.
Talk to a counsellor
If your child is already involved in any destructive behaviour and they cannot listen to you, ask a counsellor to talk to them. You may do everything within your means to protect your children, only for them to turn out the way they want. But knowing that you did your part, you can rest satisfied that you cannot live their life for them and they have to own up to their choices.