Reader's view: Parents can help lead their children to resist drugs

September 13, 2013 

Much has been made of President Reagan’s War on Drugs. Administrations have come and gone since Nancy Reagan’s simple message of “Just Say NO.” More importantly, tens of thousands of young men and women have perished, casualties of that failed war.

My son, Nate Mansfield, was one of those war-casualties. Nate passed away due to an adverse drug reaction in 2009 at the age of 27. His drug of choice was Oxycontin, when he could obtain it, and heroin when he could not.

The irony at the time of his passing is that I was the founder and chief executive officer of a “staffed, safe and sober” corporation that helped house and educate ex-drug addicts. I had also been a conservative GOP congressional candidate in the Reagan mold. I had all the answers. I learned later that I really never even knew what the questions were.

What I also learned about “drug-proofing” my son is simple, straightforward and, I hope, helpful to others: The only true drug-proofing is self-regulation.

Parents can help, though, in a few clear and meaningful ways to support that truth:

Get to know their friends — Have them over; bring them into your family’s life and culture. Observe them and their reaction to your children. Look for signs of honor. Should you discover dishonor, debrief it with your kids after the friends depart. Your kids blush; they’ll know if their friend didn’t fit. Teach your kids to “fire” peers who bring them down. They need to be given the freedom to say “go home.”

Visit their schools — Choose to be involved in your kid’s school. Much is proffered as criticism by conservatives about the need to stay away from the public school system; nonsense — the teachers at public schools want parents involved. They need quality kids and quality parents. There is no sure-fire education system that will deter drug experimentation. My son was a home-schooled elementary student, who attended a Christian junior high school and graduated from a public high school.

Encourage relationships with significant adults — Do not succumb to the lie that you are the only one who can guide your child. Fear-based, child-centeredness helps no one. Having other adults who can speak life and hope into your kids is a key to success when drugs are presented to them.

Search and rescue — Periodically, go through their personal items and do a thorough inspection of their rooms. They are not adults. They are not guests. They’re your kids, for goodness sake. You have every right to search in the toes of shoes, look in corners of their closets and lift up ceiling tiles. You’re searching for their sakes.

Most teens want to be caught. After dealing with thousands of ex-addicts, I came to understand that most of them wished someone would have stopped them earlier.

Fight for their lives — Do not kid yourself. The war that rages on and moves in the direction of your children is fierce. Be aware of it; choose not to be fearful of it. Reagan’s remarks to the Soviets seem more apropos than his wife’s comments about drugs: Trust but verify.

Should your child choose to use drugs, they will begin lying at almost the exact same hour. Their exposed lies will signal the deeper truth.

And it is your task to do everything you can, to include moving, changing your job or allowing your child to be arrested as a juvenile. A jail cell overnight for a 14-year-old is far more effective than is a casket for a 27-year-old.

When your children see how deeply you love them — and that you’ll do anything it takes to stand with them — they’ll chose to stand drug free with you.

Dennis Mansfield is an author and speaker. His recent book “Beautiful Nate,” published by Simon and Schuster, is a memoir of a family’s love, a life lost and heaven’s promises. He lives in Boise.

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