We are excited to bring you the first question in our
“JUST ASK” BLOG series.
“Dear The Soul Movement, I am having trouble with my 17 year old son. I’m worried he’s going down the wrong path. He’s using marijuana on a regular basis and hanging out with people I’m worried will negatively influence him. He refuses to engage in conversation about my concerns. What is the best way to handle this?”
The first question we want to ask ourselves is “why”; why is my son going down this path? Exercising empathy, an understanding of why someone would make the decisions they do, will assist you in knowing how to handle the situation more effectively.
Using drugs or alcohol is an escape from reality. The drugs or alcohol temporarily take you away from the thoughts in your head (your reality).
Ask yourself “what thoughts is my son trying to escape from? What could he possibly be thinking that makes him want to escape from where he is”?
Historically humanity wants to “belong”, feel accepted and loved. Almost every action we take is in someway trying to achieve love and acceptance. When we do not feel like we are good enough we will try to adapt to fit in. This is why some kids will resort to gangs, they belong somewhere. Alternatively many kids will become addicted to gaming, also a sense of belonging. We tend to move to where we feel GOOD.
Trying to stop your child from doing the thing that makes them feel good will resort in them moving further away from the parent/guardian who is trying to assist them and right into the arms of the vice. In this case, drugs and other kids (gangs) who are also looking for a sense of belonging.
If your child is 17, he has 17 years of thoughts about himself and his life. If you attempt to tell him he is better than that, he doesn’t need drugs or unruly friends, chances are he will defend his decisions. He will hold his ground and move more intently into his vice.
What he hears is you telling him yet again that he is making a poor decision. You are telling him how to live his life or how you are not happy with his decisions. This just confirms his thoughts about himself that he is not accepted. In your eyes he is a screw up. When we feel bad about ourself, we look to self soothe with drugs, alcohol, gaming, sex, food…….
My suggestion would be to show that you have faith in your son, no matter what path he takes; that he has the skills and the sense to make good decisions (for him, not for you). Let him know that he is the master of his decisions, he gets to make his own decisions; helpful or unhelpful, they are his too make. Let him know that you will always love him, you are proud of him (no matter what he decides) and if he needs any support you are there for him.
But… being there does not look like; bailing him out, giving him money a place to crash. And not do his share…. nor is it reprimanding him, making him feel small for his decisions in life, or saying “I told you so”. Being there is NON-judgmental and empathetic. An example; if he appears to have gotten himself into an unsavoury situation you could ask, “are you ok? If he shares, say, “ouch, I can see how you got there. What are your plans now? Let me know if you want any suggestions.” No lectures or unsolicited advice. Treat him with respect and dignity.
Initially this may have a reverse effect, he may not trust this new tragedy. But over time, you are showing that you trust him and are ok with what ever decision he makes; it is his journey. It will instil a sense of pride in him, a sense of belonging; bringing him home to a “safe” place of belonging.
The most important point here is that this is genuine, that he feels your support, that he truly belongs, that he can be trusted to make his own decisions (not your decisions). There is no Judgement.
For more on this topic check out “The Prodigal Son” or readings suggested below.