By Crystal Kassab Jabiro
Last year, youth leaders at St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church in West Bloomfield reached out to parents to get them more involved in their teenagers’ lives. They felt there needed to be more parent-child engagement to support the morals and values that should be at the heart of a faith-based family.
Parents organized and did a trial run of a chastity and purity talk during girls CREW, a middle school church group, now known as J2S (Journey to Sainthood). They used a video by Jason Evert, an internationally known Catholic author and speaker and founder of the Chastity Project (chastityproject.com) to springboard the conversation. Based on the positive reactions, the idea of Under God’s Wings, a parent group, was born at St. Thomas.
“We need to get together as parents and address these issues,” said Yasmeen Abbo, a program committee member.
While sexuality may be an uncomfortable topic- and the language even more distressing- children will benefit from these real, though maybe awkward, conversations with their parents.
Abbo uses the Catholic website formed.org to learn valuable information and to teach it and discuss it with her kids. She is not relying on the ordinary school health class.
“I’m not putting blinders on my eyes, but I will teach chastity and purity,” she insists.
Under God’s Wings will be meeting monthly to address topics of concern to teens and children. The purpose is to educate, inform, and provide resources to help build stronger Catholic families. In October, they addressed internet safety.
This month’s Under God’s Wings topic is drug awareness and prevention. The group of parent volunteers hope other moms and dads come together to learn the signs of abuse, to remain connected to their children in order to prevent addiction, and to get treatment for their children if necessary. Basically, they want parents to be “in the know.”
“There is a need – especially for the parents of young children – to go back to the church and relearn the morals and values that were taught to us,” said Abbo.
Often a taboo topic in the Chaldean community, Lindsay Najor Ph.D., wishes to shed light on the drug epidemic at the next Under God’s Wings meeting on Wednesday, November 15. She recently received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology. She completed her dissertation on “The Parents’ Experience of their Child’s Opiate Addiction.”
Najor, 32, stresses, “You have to talk to your kids about drugs.”
Despite the increasing availability of medicinal marijuana in Michigan, it is still considered a gateway drug. According to Najor, all of her participants’ children started experimenting with marijuana before going to opiates. Marijuana can lead to prescription drug dependency like OxyContin and then to illegal drugs, like heroine. Illegal drug use tends to be contingent on parent-child relationships, not so much on peers.
“You have to be interested in your kids,” Najor asserted. “You have to give them your attention and time, not material items.”
Najor notes that the Chaldean community, like other collective cultures such as the Italians, are opening up to dealing with substance and drug abuse. Too often, these issues are kept as family secrets for fear of blame and embarrassment.
“You don’t have to put your business out there, but a family cannot solve its child’s problems alone. Addicts need professional help,” said Najor. “And even then, they might not recover. It’s entirely up to the addict.”
Only 20 percent of opiate addicts recover, she continued. The rest either do not recuperate or die.
Parents need to recognize how much influence they have over their children’s decisions. This is not to condemn their parenting styles, but to acknowledge how they need to model appropriate behavior. For example, if a child is struggling with alcoholism, his or her parents and siblings should not drink nor should they have liquor in the house.
As the guest lecturer at Under God’s Wings, Najor will teach parents to notice the signs of substance abuse, which include withdrawal from family and inconsistent weight gain and loss. She will also encourage parents of addicts to look into treatment centers to get their children the help they need. She believes it is important for parents to educate themselves before they attempt to educate their children. There will also be a personal testimony from a community member.
“Your child is abusing drugs to cope with something,” she maintained. “You have to know what that is and get them help before it is too late.”
5 Bits of Advice from Dr. Najor
• Be involved in your child’s life and spend time with them every day.
• Set clear expectations and enforce them daily.
• Be a positive role model because children imitate their parents.
• Help your children choose their friends wisely and feel comfortable in social situations.
• Talk to them about drugs. Short conversations go a long way. Stay engaged!
Gateway drug: a habit-forming substance (i.e. Alcohol and cigarettes) that may lead to the use of other more addictive substances in the future (i.e. Prescriptions drugs like Vicodin and cocaine).
Fast Facts About Teens and Drug Use
• More teens die from prescription drugs than heroine/cocaine combined.
• One third of teenagers who live in states with medical marijuana laws get their pot from other people’s prescriptions.
• By the 8th grade, 28 percent of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15 percent have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5 percent have used marijuana.
• About 50 percent of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice and 40 percent believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice.
• Teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t.
Under God’s Wings will be meeting on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at St. Thomas in West Bloomfield. All parents and caring family figures are welcome. Questions or suggestions could be emailed to email@example.com.
How to Raise Strong Catholic
Families in Today’s Culture
Wednesday, December 15, 2017
Dr. Lindsay Najor can be reached at Dennis & Moye & Associates, 1750 South Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302. She treats clients 10 and older. You can call her at 248.842.6499 or email her firstname.lastname@example.org.