As I help my teenage children to tiptoe through the hormonal minefield that is their teenage years, I wonder if they are lucky or unlucky in their mother’s choice of profession. A former police detective turned criminal defence lawyer, I have worked in the justice system for over thirty years.
During that time I have seen the very worst that can happen to kids and their parents, and just when you begin to think you’ve seen it all, you realise you haven’t even started. I don’t want to scaremonger. Britain by and large is a safe country to live in and I reckon it only seems that more awful things happen today because of easier and faster access to information.
As a result of my work, I believe talking to my children about issues rather than hiding from them, whilst giving them the skills and confidence to deal with those issues is the best way forwards. My children could, with a resigned sigh, repeat my mantras word perfect – they’ve heard them so many times. If in doubt, shout. If it feels wrong, it probably is. So on and so forth. I think my children probably do benefit from my work, let’s face it, any of their misdemeanours are highly likely to pale compared to some of the stuff my clients get up to. However, with the changes in kids’ lives, such as the use of social media, there are some things as parents that you should be aware of and that you should be discussing with your children.
Probably most parents’ biggest concern will be drug use. Cannabis is so widely used amongst my young clients that it is virtually the accepted norm and they see absolutely nothing wrong in using it. Making accurate, up to date information available to children from the age of about 11 helps them to form their own opinions rather than follow those of an ill informed peer. I believe it is an easier step to start smoking cannabis if you are already a smoker, and putting kids off smoking cigarettes makes cannabis use just that little bit less likely. Cannabis may or may not be addictive, but it is expensive and leads to crime in order to fund it.
My young clients will steal from family members and friends if they are so inclined, and parents sometimes report their own children to police to try and curb their behaviour as a desperate last resort. If my kids began to use it, my main fear would be the link with mental ill health, which some people don’t consider proven. However I have seen enough clients with drug induced psychosis to be convinced of the link. In my experience cannabis users don’t go on to become users of heroin, but older students do use drugs such as ketamine and ecstasy alongside a regular cannabis intake.
There are many organisations who can help you with further information, literature, and even school visits. Do check out the Justice Gap advice guide for information on the law. Keep talking to your children. Asking them for their opinion and listening to their replies will keep you informed as to the likelihood or otherwise of their using drugs. You may also learn something. In my next blog I will attempt to unravel the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, and what it may mean for your children beginning to experiment with sex.
Kim Evans has spent 31 years working at the sharp end of the criminal justice system - the last ten years in the cells of East Sussex police stations defending people in custody. ‘I'd guesstimate that 90% of my clients have a personality disorder, mental health issues, and, or, serious substance addiction be it drugs or alcohol,’ she says. Kim started her career at the Metropolitan Police as a uniformed officer in 1979.