Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For Harrison

I wrote about the fun part of my day in NYC yesterday, but now I have to force myself to write about the hard part.

Hearing Gary Neal's story about his son Harrison--who experienced respiratory failure leading to his death after mixing a prescription drug with over the counter cold medicine when he was seventeen--made me feel so ill-equipped to deal with the teen years. More than feeling unequipped it made me afraid--afraid of what's to come.

This is coming from me--a non-worrying, laid-back kind of mom--and yet the facts are there. Being a parent--that's what hard. Thinking about the decisions that my children will make with their underdeveloped teen brains (click through that link to read an interesting study) makes me want to lock them in their rooms until they are 25, but of course that's not possible.

You can hear Gary Neal's story in his own words here. Sitting across the table from him, as well as his daughter (Harrison's big sister) Jordan, I heard about everything that he did once he realized his son had a problem to try to help him, including counseling, random drug testing, and an intensive outpatient rehab. I heard about a normal kid, a good kid who enjoyed spending time with his family and was involved in charitable work, who happened to have a drug problem.

Hearing Harrison's story put a face to the problem. It made me resolve not to become a part of the problem and to take the steps that I shared on 5 Minutes for Mom to protect my kids and other kids who come into my home. What's more, it strengthened my resolve to stay educated--to know what my kids are facing and to talk with them about it.

Dr. Anthony Wolf is a teen psychologist. He shared some wonderful tips on communicating with your teens, which I felt like I could immediately apply to my relationship with Amanda.

  • Persist--Even if your child doesn't seem to be listening to you or value what you've told them, keep talking to them. Studies show that the teen who rolls their eyes at you, and taps their foot and sighs, waiting impatiently for you to finish "your speech" take the information that you have shared into account when they are making decisions.
  • Stay focused--Don't let your child distract you from the issue at hand. Don't respond to their efforts to change the issue or their objections: "You don't trust me. Why would you think that I would do that?" Know what you want to say, and say it.
  • End on a high note--In belaboring the point by demanding a response from your child, we weaken our message. "Now tell me you won't ever use prescription drugs. You won't, will you? Do you know anyone who is doing this? What would you do when faced with that choice?" Trust that they are hearing and respecting our information, even if their actions don't reflect it.

I admire the Neal family for taking the bold (and difficult) step to share their tragedy so that others might avoid the same. That's what a strong parenting community is all about--that which we are building in the blogosphere and over cups of coffee everywhere. If we share our triumphs and our tragedies in equal measure and with equal honesty, we can build stronger families. We can't change the horrible things that have happened to us, but we can use them to learn and to educate others.


Amy posted her thoughts and more details on her blog.


Amy said...

Being there with you, the same thoughts ran through my head. Talking to Gary and hearing everything he did to help his son made me thing, what else could he have done? As parents, I guess that the answer is that we need to educate our children and ourselves on this and stop it even before it starts. Very well written, Jen.

maria bailey said...

I am so jealous I couldn't be there with you, Amy and the others.

Katrina said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. There is so much scary stuff out there and we need to be as prepared as possible to help our kids navigate all that lies ahead of them.

Kimmylyn said...

Jenn, I enjoyed your take of the day. It was extremely difficult to watch Gary Neil explain all he did and yet he could not save his son.

Wonderful post.

Beck said...

That is so unbearably heartbreaking to think about.
One of my brothers has a drug problem, which means that my kids have already had the drug talk, mostly consisting of "Do You Want TO End Up Like Your UNcle?". And no, they do not.

Andrea said...

That is really good advice you posted. I actually have a teen and though I love her and she is a great kid, it's not that fun...just cause it's mentally and emotionally exhausting for me.
Anyway. Don't be scared. You'll do fine. God gives it to us in steps. Not all at once. :)