Mormon Channel Blog

How to Help a Child with an Addiction

December 5, 2014

Tips from Parents who Know

Just last year, Mike and Jill Beard had to go through one of the hardest trials as parents—they lost their 17-year-old son, Mikey, to a drug overdose. Through the help of the Savior Jesus Christ, the Beards now educate school groups, communities, and other parents on how to spot early signs of addiction in children and how to help them overcome.

One of the first things that Jill noticed as a behavioral change in her son was that he allowed his grades in high school to drop. “[Mikey began] missing [football] practices…things that would normally be important to him became less important.”

Seeing Mikey give up on his normal activities started to make the family curious about what else was going on in his life that would make him do that. Jill says that Mikey also started to hang out with new friends he didn’t want to bring home or have his parents meet. Jill noticed that her son was less eager to communicate with his family about what was going on in his life; he started making excuses and became more and more secretive and less and less honest about how he spent his time and where he was going with his friends. Mike says, “When you’re dealing with someone who has an addiction, you’re not dealing with your child; you’re dealing with a demon, someone that is unreasonable.”

At home, both Mike and Jill noticed that certain valuables and prescription drugs were missing; they later found out these were paying for their son’s addiction. Mike recommends that parents lock up valuables and medications so they are harder for your children to find.

If you start to notice similar patterns of behavior in your own children, the Beards would advise you to be aware and vigilant and to, “keep communication lines open, even when you think you’re bugging [your kids]. Hold them accountable so that they really know that you care. When you’re too passive, that’s when the relationship between parents and the kids starts to break down. As a mom I wanted to fix everything for him. … A person going through a trial like this has no idea the pain and the heartbreak that their parents go through—their whole family. And you have to be OK with that because if you’re more worried about them hating you, you’re just prolonging the inevitable. Our [church leader] said to me that the sooner you come to that realization that he is no longer a little child—that this is now somebody who has become a prisoner to a drug—you can give him the help he needs and then step back and allow that process to happen, realizing that unfortunately they will have to go through some pretty rough patches in order to get to the other side,” Jill said.

Mike Beard also advised parents whose children are struggling with a vice to not be concerned with what other people may think. “It’s so easy for parents to put up that wall because they don’t want to be judged, but that doesn’t fix the problem. I love my son a heck of a lot more than what anyone else thinks. You need support, not judgment. We can choose to crawl under a rock and hide, or choose to face it and accept that this is something that Heavenly Father is allowing to be a challenge in your life right now—it’s what you choose to do with it.”

You can learn more about the Beards’ story on this episode of His Grace.