WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011—On Saturday afternoon, police discovered the body of Amy Winehouse, the vocal powerhouse who won 5 Grammy awards, selling millions of albums to adoring fans in her Camden North London flat.
As the days pass, many ponder what could have been and look to the sources that lead her life becoming train wreck out of control. Tragic deaths like Winehouse’s can and do have the impact of getting people to consider abuse, addiction and whether there is anything that could have been done to avoid what looks like an accidental or purposeful overdose, while we heed that the official cause of death is still unknown.
Also at times like these, people ache for the parents and family members who live with the pain and absence of their loved one. They too are left to wonder if they could’ve done more to prevent the inevitable.
Amy Winehouses’ father reportedly prepared his daughter’s obituary in 2007, fearful that Amy would not live much longer given the dangerous path she was on. Her mother saw the train had left the station and she too said she had little hopes that her daughter would live to see age 30.
Several researchers have linked addiction and addictive behavior to genetics. Some others have noted that children who exhibit early signs of abnormal addictive behavior in early childhood, such as an obsession with playing online with their computers or with video games, may be more susceptible to becoming addicted to alcohol, food, drugs or some other vice in adolescence and adulthood.
A Journal of Adolescence study found that children who play with video games too much could lead to a gambling habit in the future.
Certainly, Winehouse’s death has not only left a substantial void in the music industry, especially for those who loved her unique earthy and rich voice, but it also left many discussions about addiction and mental issues to be had.
Dr. Tammy Haynes-Robinson, a clinical psychologist at Breath Medical Wellness Center in Jamaica wrote a piece on Amy Winehouse after her death, The Devil and Amy Winehouse, and discussed the fact that Winehouse had been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.
Combined with the substance addiction, possibly an addiction to bad relationships, and an eating disorder, Amy Winehouse had many demons to fight.
“Addiction is a story of how you try to escape from yourself, and the voices that torment you,” Dr. Haynes-Robinson told Washington Times Communities. “These voices could be your parents, your self-doubt, your mistakes, your childhood trauma or your insecurities.”
These may form in early to late childhood and manifest in adulthood, but the research is inconclusive.
No one can predict for certain the future or even whether genetics show that one child is at a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic than another child, and there is no sure fire way to prevent its onset or know if a prediction will even come into fruition.
Notwithstanding, it may be helpful, for parents to be vigilant and step in and do whatever they can to curb, suppress or head off a path towards addiction. The alternative is to ignore warning signs, do nothing and just deal with it if and when it comes. No parent wants to go through what Amy Winehouse’s did and have to cope with the loss of a child.
Here are a few suggestions for parents to consider to stay one step ahead of a potential addiction problem:
- Be aware: Watch for early signs that a child exhibits obsessive behavior or an unnatural or excessive craving and desire for one activity or object (e.g. to play video games, eat, watch tv) and shows extreme reaction of being deprived of that activity or object.
- Stay Active: Know the children that your kids associate with, befriend and are influenced by. Sharing meals together and taking an active role in school help to know who your child interacts with. Dinner time is an opportune to probe, ask questions and discover what’s going on in you childrens’ lives. A Study from the Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, in New York found that teens are more likely to abuse drugs when family dinners are infrequent. Also, by volunteering in the school, parents get a first hand chance to examine and witness for themselves the type of kids in the school and to discover if their children are hanging around those who may be into sinister activities.
- Engage in healthy alternatives Keep your children active in sports or some other type of activity or club that takes up their time and leave them little opportunity hang around and get into trouble. Also, playing sports releases natural endorphins that can simulate euphoria. They create a natural high and can eliminate the need or interest in artificial ones. Kids involved in sports usually have to be physically fit and unimpaired in order to perform. Many athletic children avoid alcohol, drugs, excessive eating or other negative behaviors that can impair their physical fitness.
- Set boundaries. Establish consistent limits. Forcing a child to engage in activities in moderation will teach them to shift focus and attention elsewhere over the course of a day and minimizes opportunities for a child to become addicted to it. Children need boundaries in order to function and learn self-control. They can also help later in avoiding or resisting developing an addiction.
- Monitor online activities. Teenagers do have rights to privacy, but they do not have the right to peruse illegal websites or sites that promote illegal activity. Parents’ rights to monitor, police and keep children from harm trump their kids’ rights to be free from parental snooping. Parents may want to invest in tracking software that helps them monitor what sites their kids are watching. If a parent learns, the teen is visiting sites that promote the use or purchase of illegal substances, alcohol or other vices, the parent can step in sooner before a curiosity or early use turns into hardcore addiction.
- Seek outside counseling or help. If you suspect your child may be using drugs, is withdrawn, forgetful, letting his grades slip and exhibit all the early signs of substance abuse, get help early. It’s easy in our busy lives as parents to willfully overlook changes or dismiss them.
In the battle against drugs, family members have an uphill battle and many lose. The earlier we take charge, the better our odds of defeating the addiction demon.
Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaksm BlackWeb 2.0 and Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.
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