Youth tempted by drugs just need a dose of love
During the festive season, when young people are at greater risk of being tempted by drugs, parents might do well to heed the advice of a former TV actress turned parenting expert.
Barbara Chan Man-yee, better known as Money Chan, says the eldest of her two teen sons was once tempted to try drugs but refused - a decision she attributes to fostering a loving environment at home.
'He assessed the effects [drug use] would have on us as parents and decided against it,' she said. 'Our relationship and love protected him.'
Chan brought this philosophy to Parenting Forum, an organisation she founded with her actor husband, Liu Kai-chi, three years ago.
The group aims to address problems like drug abuse among youths by helping parents build confidence and strengthen their relationships through courses and seminars.
It also launched a two-year drug prevention programme last year, funded by the Security Bureau's narcotics division, which helped more than 8,000 parents in its first year.
'Children use drugs because they're unhappy and we need to find a way out of this,' she said. 'Parents have the biggest influence on their children. We would like to invite each one of them to be their children's guardian angel.'
She said she encouraged her eldest son, now 17, to be open about his problems, such as poor grades and peer pressure.
'He likes heavy metal music,' Chan said. 'One time after coming back from a [concert], he shared one of the songs with me. It was good music, but full of foul language.
'He said to me, 'If [the musicians'] parents were there, I'm sure they would feel pretty upset.' I knew [my son] wouldn't cross the line because of our relationship.'
She said Hong Kong parents often belittled their natural instincts and relied on expert advice.
This problem has led to parents neglecting their children's needs and often failing to catch wayward habits - such as illegal narcotics use - happening right under their noses. Chan said this reflected the 'growing distance in parent-child relations'.
Drug use among the youth in their own homes is growing, according to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse. This year, the number of Hongkongers aged below 21 who use drugs at home has swelled to 42 per cent from just 26 per cent in 2008.
While the statistics are worrying, Chan said this was an opportunity for parents to play a bigger role in helping their children stop using drugs.