One of my colleagues once asked me whether I enjoyed my time more with my children or grandchildren. I paused for a moment to think and said … grandchildren. She then asked me “why.”
To answer this question, I had to scan my life. I realized that when I had children it was just at the beginning of my professional career. My institution needed a hundred percent and I was busy developing as a professional. There was a race in my mind to achieve something, to contribute something and to earn recognition from society. I could not devote the required time with my children. I was living with my parents so there was no concern that my children would be neglected and not receive the desired affection and love. In addition, family discipline was strict. Immaterial of where we had been we had to be back home at Maghrib and every member of the family had to sit for dinner soon after prayers. At the dinner table, we would narrate to each other our daylong experiences, so my children learned discipline, the value of family togetherness and of sharing their experiences.
The luxury of generational togetherness is now missing from our lives. In a nuclear family, only parents or domestic helpers are available to our children. We do not have time to sit together and chat. We try to provide our children with the best facilities and gadgets for enjoyment. But how much do we talk to them to relieve their stress or sit with them to solve the puzzles in their minds. They look for answers from their friends while spending time in malls or other public places and in that hustle and bustle they make their own opinions about life. The question is, are we there to listen to them? Interestingly, in 2016 the theme of the UN International Day against Drug Abuse was “Listen First”. Listening to children is the first step in helping them along to healthy and safe growth. I picked up the problem of drug abuse as an example of what can happened to our children if there is a disconnect with family norms. This problem is increasing throughout the world.
The seriousness of the drug problem can be assessed from the fact that in the first 15 days of May 2017, around 40 cases of drug trading were recorded, several kilograms of ice (meth), hashish, heroin, synthetic marijuana and tens of thousands of illicit tablets were impounded. Forty-six suspects were arrested by drug control authorities. The problem is clearly not hypothetical. Statistics show there are users present in our society. Reduction of demand is the only way to restrict the trafficking of such drugs. The government keeps control of trafficking by imposing strict laws, heavy fines, jail sentences or even the death penalty. A rehabilitation center has been established in the country to help addicts and the government has launched educational programs. It can catch and punish traffickers and counteract drug abuse. However, as parents and a society, we have a bigger role to play. It is a matter of great concern to those of no less importance than our own children, the youth of today, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Don’t wait. Be a friend to your children. Listen to their problems, laugh with them, play with them for a healthy tomorrow. I pray that from now onward I don’t hear news of the death of a young man due to a drug overdose.
Dr Mirza Umair Beg
Senior Research Scientist. KISR, Kuwait