These are what preschool teachers face, as they try to provide safe places for children who have meth-addict parents.
The use of methamphetamine in Northland, New Zealand is causing huge effects on children and has resulted in an increase in children growing up with ‘P’ addict parents.
Pauline Cunningham, whose dad is from Rarotonga, has spent years in New Zealand working as a preschool teacher dealing with children under five years. “I have been working with children for many years. These children are shoved to the side, they got no voice because of the ‘selfish drug’ that is out there, that unfortunately people choose to try, and they get addicted and that’s when it affects children leaving them stuck.”
Cunningham says in the past couple of years, children have been pushed to the side as the drug becomes more and more popular in the suburbs.
For a close-knit people like Cook Islands, the community’s main strength is educating young ones, and ensuring that everyone is supporting each other, for their sake.
This is how it can be kicked out from the islands, she says.
“Here you are getting children sent to kindy with no food, because the parents are too busy doing what they are doing. We are getting children that are not regularly coming because their parents have been taking their drugs, socialising with friends, so children are left behind.”
She has seen children go to school with anger issues, linked to their home life, parents that take these drugs during the day.
The preschool she works at provides transport for children – teachers pick them up and drop them off five days a week.
Cunningham says they come across parents who are aggressive, showing that they are still high, not knowing what they are doing or saying.
“Sometimes parents are still sleeping – they don’t know it is the afternoon time,” she says. “Some are so drugged out, they don’t even know who you are and then here I am trying to make a decision what am I going to do with this child. Whether it is a safe enough situation to leave the child in?
“These are their parents and they are not being responsible for this child at all.”
Children are passively inhaling meth, and this will affect their health and result in them getting addicted later. It also causes behavioural problems, losing focus and depression.
For the Cook Islands, she believes an education programme advising against the drugs and its effects must be taught to children from a young age.
But it must be talked about carefully, not creating fear in children. They must know and feel that they can get help.
“I still really believe that one of the many major benefits here is that people are close, everybody knows each other, it’s a tight community, that has old-school values and morals, still here today. It is one of the best things about the islands. You can go to somebody and they can offer help, you will always have somebody to back you up.”
If anyone has a loved one addicted to meth – she urges them to speak out and ask for help.