If you turn on the news, check Twitter, or open a newspaper these days, you’re going to see something about drug use and the opioid crisis in America. It’s probably the one area in our country where there is no discrimination. Regardless of skin color, financial status, social status, gender, location, etc., you can find yourself becoming a user or impacted by the drug use of someone you love.
I came across this video recently. It’s of former Fox News personality Eric Bolling discussing the death of his son to an opioid overdose. In his public life, Eric Bolling can be kind of an annoying right-wing mouthpiece. I get that. I’ve never been a fan. However, in this moment, he’s just a dad that lost his son to drugs.
Take a look.
Not My Kid Syndrome is a real problem
Several years ago I sat down with some parents of students in my youth group. We had been doing a series on drug use on Sunday mornings. Now, I really wasn’t someone who liked to focus on the typical “drugs, sex and booze” teaching in ministry, but we did that month.
We had a few parents that were not happy we were talking about drugs. They asked to get together with us to voice their concerns. As we discussed the series one of the parents voiced that they didn’t feel it was appropriate to talk about these things with their kids because their kids lived in Hamilton County and weren’t exposed to drugs like their Lawrence Township counterparts.
To be completely honest, the statement broke my heart. Not only were kids in Hamilton County exposed to all manner of drug and alcohol abuse, but often, those kids were dealing drugs to Lawrence Township kids because they were more affluent and had more money from their parents or jobs.
This was a case of Not My Kid Syndrome.
Most teachers and youth workers would probably agree that Not My Kid Syndrome has been a thing for a long time. It doesn’t always take the form of drug abuse denial. Sometimes it’s as simple as a child acting out and the parents believing that there is no way THEIR child is struggling. Many times we’d receive pushback, or be attacked because we’d express concern (genuinely loving concern) for a student’s situation or behavior and have the parent(s) attack us instead of trying to believe their child was struggling.
I never want to say, “Not my kid.”
All parents struggle with thinking that it’s, “Not my kid.” I do as well. I love my girls. I think they’re perfect. My gut reaction anytime they get in trouble at school though is to assume it is another student’s fault or the teacher just doesn’t understand. Constantly, I’m catching myself coming down with Not My Kid Syndrome.
We forget sometimes that some of us were the “beneficiary” of Not My Kid Syndrome. We all probably got away with things as teens due to our parents being oblivious that we could, or would, do anything sketchy or truly harmful. For some of us, it was general misbehavior. For others of us, it was drug and alcohol abuse.
Regardless, there is just something about it being OUR own children that makes us want to think “not my kid.”
Not My Kid Syndrome can be deadly
When I was in high school we had kids who died of drug overdoses or drug-related deaths. Some of those kids who got away with consistent drug use as teens have died since graduation due to drug or alcohol abuse. When I was a youth director I had students who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Thank God none of our students died, but there were students connected to our kids that died in drug or alcohol-related accidents.
I want to be aware
The video above struck me when I saw it. Here’s this guy who is a bit of a blowhard on television. In this moment though, I just see myself in him. A dad who just didn’t see it coming. A dad who said, “Not my kid” and it cost him everything. That could be any of us.
I hope that I can resist the urge to think, “Not my kid” and be truly aware as a parent of the struggles my kids are having as they grow up. Hopefully, as parents, we will do everything we can to recognize and address issues as they arise.
Do you struggle with Not My Kid Syndrome? Maybe you don’t quite buy into it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.