Ayo is a brilliant 17-year-old boy who is the apple of his parents´ eyes. He has always been top of his class and is responsible, always respectful and God-fearing. His parents are also very responsible members of the society and role models for a perfect family. Ayo has two younger siblings, Tunde, a 15-year-old boy; and Bola, a 13-year-old girl. Ayo recently gained admission to the university to study law and his parents were confident that he would be an outstanding lawyer. His grades after his first year exams were really impressive.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and ASUU strike combined, have resulted in the children all staying at home with their parents for the past five months. Ayo´s mum returned home from her shop earlier than expected and asked Tunde and Bola about Ayo – as he didn’t come out to welcome her. They informed her that he was studying in his room. Their mum beamed with pride as she strolled upstairs to Ayo´s room.
She froze and the smile was wiped off her face by the sight that confronted her. Ayo was smoking a joint of cannabis and dancing to music from his phone, with earphones plugged into his ears.
He was jolted by the sight of his mother, weeping silently as she stood and stared at him in disbelief. He quickly threw the joint away and frantically opened the window to allow the smoke to dissipate. He could not bear to look at his mother´s face and see the expression of anguish, pain, and disappointment on it. He was thoroughly ashamed of himself.
His mother eventually gathered her wits around her and called his father to come home immediately as there was an emergency at home. What happened? Ayo´s father asked. But she simply told him to come home right away and to come alone. He rushed home and met his wife and Ayo weeping upstairs. Who died? What happened? What is going on? He fired questions in an alarmed manner.
“Nobody has died”, Ayo´s mother replied. “But it´s your son that wants to kill me. He has joined bad gang and I met him smoking cannabis.” She explained as she commenced a fresh round of weeping. Ayo´s father was not sure he heard correctly. Ayo smoking cannabis? In their home? Was he under a spell? That can´t be true? His Ayo is responsible and not a riff-raff.
He turned to Ayo to interrogate him, but the guilty expression on his face told him all that he needed to know….It was indeed true. He suddenly sat down on the nearest chair.
He could not believe that this was happening to him or his family. Where did he go wrong? How is this possible? For the first time in a very long time, he lacked words. Ayo´s mother was also having guilty thoughts about not being at home all the time, since the children have been home. Maybe it was her fault. What can they do now? Where do they go from here? When did all these troubles start? Can he still get his life back on track? Will he ever amount to anything in life?
It is often a shock to the system to realize that our children or younger ones are engaged in substance taking behaviour. But when the shock wears off, most parents are left confused about how to handle the situation. They experience an admixture of emotions ranging from shame, embarrassment, feelings of guilt, inadequacy as a parent, anger, disappointment etc. How should they deal with the situation?
It is important to stay calm and composed after recovering from the shock. Reassure him or her that you love them unconditionally and you will support them without hesitation. Then let them talk to you openly and freely about how it all started and how it has changed over time. You may need to speak with a mental health professional to help evaluate the risk and professionally offer them guidance on how to beat the habit.
It is critical not to lose hope or write them off because they have dabbled into drug use. Many of them will be fleeting habits that they can kick and get their life back on track. But they need help, support, love and encouragement. And the best example to serve as encouragement in this regard is former US president Barack Obama, who also dabbled into cannabis use as a college student.
But it was a fleeting habit, and he kicked it, became serious with his studies and look where he ended up? Never look down on anyone or write them off. Everyone can change…for the better.
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