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Yes – We Can Raise Drug Free Kids! By Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli

“Children are our most valuable gifts of nature. Let us try our best to safeguard those gifts. Cultivating a garden requires hours of vigorous digging, planting, watering and weeding. The flowering and fruit only come as a result of backbreaking work, constant self-giving and taking in all that is life sustaining from the world around us”, (Joseph A. Califano). As a parents it is our solemn duty to become good role models for our children, protect them from unhealthy life style, and  inspire and motivate them to achieve their dreamed goals.

Substance abuse is on the rise worldwide and Canada is not immune. It is frightening to know that: 47,000 Canadian deaths are linked to substance abuse annually, 60% of illicit drug users in Canada are between the ages of 15 and 24, Canada has become the second largest consumer of prescription opioids, second only to the United States, and with a 203% increase in usage between 2000 and 2010. More than a 100 Indo-Canadian young men have lost their lives in BC gangland violence alone not to talk about other cities of Canada where there have been some stray incidents of Indo-Canadian gang related violence. In 1980, law enforcement listed just a handful of gangs who controlled the criminal markets in British Columbia. Today, it’s estimated that 188 criminal groups are vying for a share of the province’s illicit markets. Drugs now kill, seven a day in Canada, more  than cars and guns. The total number of illicit drug deaths in BC  in October was 63, up from 57 in September.

It is critical that we openly, honestly, and frequently communicate with our child early on about substance abuse, use of internet, social networking, and use of cell phones. During childhood and adolescence, drug use can interfere with your child’ physical, emotional, and cognitive development, can interfere with brain development and can inflict serious, sometimes irreversible brain damage.

This is what we have successfully employed for raising our children and grand-children: Be a role model because children internalize paternal values and directives particularly when they are accompanied by warmth, support, and firm limits; listen, listen and listen to them ; involve them in decision making and setting rules for them; act consistently and responsibly in front of them; teach them to take responsibility; give them age-appropriate responsibility; communicate with them; discuss “limits” with  them, since children respect boundaries and feel safe within boundaries. Never use shaming as a punishment, because you do not want to see them anxious, depressed, and deprived of self-esteem. Help them in developing an interest in a hobby-a game (field  hockey, racket-ball, squash, tennis, baseball or basketball) of their choice, playing a musical instrument. Hobbies in children form the basic building blocks of life, and provide a number of benefits like: development of critical thinking and cognitive skills, imagination, creativity, will power, dedication, and a tool to enjoy life. Hobbies can keep your children active and engaged. If your children do not learn and develop some hobbies, they can develop boredom and lethargy, which can act as obstacles to their development. Hobbies can help children to develop social, academic and moral skills. Most smoking, drinking, and drug use that go on among high school teens occur after school while they are hanging out with one another. A good hobby will help eliminate such a calamity.

Right from early childhood, build a solid bond with them, with your warm love. The solid bond allows the child to develop a sense of security and a strong sense of self-esteem , and  also works as a shield against unhealthy peer pressure while they are in school or a college. For the attachment to develop, dinning together, at least, three times a week works wonders. Research shows that family that dined together stays together. How many times, we as a family, sit together for a dinner? One of the many reasons that it’s important to have dinner with our children most nights of the week is that this is a great time to discuss issues with them, and engage them in debates. Whether your child smokes, drinks, or uses drugs is more likely to be determined in your living room or dining room, or over your kitchen table, than in any classroom, courtroom, or legislative hearing room. And your job gets more challenging each year.

Thoughtful discussions with teenagers gives them multiple opportunities to sharpen their maturing cognitive and communication skills. Moreover, research shows that kids are considerably less likely to be involved with negative groups and peers when they are consistently and positively involved with their families, are significantly less likely to use drugs, alcohol, or marijuana, and have higher grade-point average. We should always monitor the changes, if any, in the mood of a teenager, because teens are likely to be drawn to other teens with poor values when they are experiencing high levels of stress, either within or outside the family. Encourage him/her to come to you with their problems and concerns, failures and triumphs, hopes and fears, and indicate their everyday needs too. Peer influence can contribute to drug use. Having friends who smoke is one of the main reasons that teens start smoking. And most importantly, keep in touch with school teachers.

We want our children to become people who are expressive and self-confident, and who think and live freely. We must encourage our children to set meaningful goals and then work towards them with effort and perseverance. But these goals should be realistic, challenging, and safe. Let us make sure that we spend time with our children, since it is a better investment than the money we spend on them. Let us try our best to protect our valuable asset from drug abuse. Our community must not lose anymore  young lives to  gangland violence in BC or  elsewhere.

Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli is a member of the UBC Senate.

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