Substance abuse amongst children is increasingly becoming a growing concern in Botswana.
As we commemorate the Day of the African Child under the theme “Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for children in Africa by 2030”, the question remains how are we protecting our children from using substances?
Firstly it is important to state that a child refers to any person below the age of 18 (Botswana Children’s Act 2009).
Therefore we are not referring to the general youth who currently seem to be the focus of all social issues including substance abuse.
Despite the laws that restrict the sale and distribution of legal and illegal substances our children continue to gain access to these substances.
Statistics show that tobacco and alcohol are the top two substances abused by children in Botswana (The Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Risk Surveillance, 2011) and BOSASNet has received most of its child clients using the same substances, with the use of marijuana and codeine increasingly on the rise
We need to look at ourselves as a society, as a parent or a guardian what role do I play in ensuring that my child does not have access to cigarettes and alcohol in the home?
Do I simply tell my child not to touch my cigarettes and alcohol with the hope that they will actually not be tempted?
The reality is that for a lot of adults the idea of restricting our own use of legal substances in the home is a violation of our own rights.
We often forget that children mimic the behaviour that they see in their environment.
As a society we need to be aware of how our use and acceptance of substances affects our children.
We need to be aware of what we expose them to on TV and around the neighbourhood.
The schools in Botswana are currently struggling to address the infiltration of substances within the school system.
For many students substances are used as a coping mechanism for life challenges.
Today’s world is brought into most children’s hands by means of technology.
This means that a child may be under immense peer pressure as they try to keep up with what they see on social media.
It is important that parents take time to know their children and discuss what their children are exposed to, and in turn give them appropriate information as they grow in exploring the world around them.
By empowering ourselves to deal with our own life challenges we can in turn teach and protect our children against substance abuse.
If you think that you might have a substance abuse problem, or if you have a friend or family member who does, we encourage you to seek help.
For some, it can mean the difference between life and death.
You can find BOSASNet on Facebook, visit us on www.bosasnet.com, or call us on 3959119 or 72659891 for more information.