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The Games They Play

by Olga Vigil

My husband and I often discuss the dangers of smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and having premarital sex with both of our teenage children. We make it a point to meet their friends and get acquainted with their families. We are vigilant when it comes to what movies they watch both in the theatre and on TV. We have all the parental safeguards set-up in our home computer (which by the way is located in a visible location just to make sure). We try to keep up with their culture even to the point of creating our own MySpace sites so we can chat with them at their level. I must say I used to feel pretty confident about my parenting skills, that is until I heard a news report that nearly knocked the “confident parent” wind out of me! It seems I was unaware of the latest craze among children and youth — to asphyxiate each other just to get a high.

They call it the “Choking Game” and they play it using neckties, belts, plastic bags, even their own hands. They use anything that can help inhibit the oxygen to the lungs, brain, and heart by reducing the blood pressure initiating the dying process. The point of the game is then to allow the oxygen to flow back into their organs causing them to pass-out and giving them a quick high. Unfortunately, hundreds of players have reached the point-of-no-return and their game has ended with severe brain damage or they’ve paid the ultimate price — death. Many of these deaths have been ruled suicide by doctors unfamiliar with the game. Other names for the game include but are not limited to — the pass-out game, the fainting game, the tingling game, the dreaming game, or the fainting each other game. Unlike drug use there are no medical tests that can be done to verify whether or not your teenager is engaging in this behavior but there are some signs you can look for, such as:

• Markings on the neck
• Complaints of headaches
• Blood shot eyes
• Ties or ropes tied in unusual ways

So what are parents to do short of burning all our ropes, ties, and Wal-Mart bags? I’ll tell you what I did, I ran to my husband and told him what I heard and then we both discussed the issue with our teens. To our surprise, they already knew about it. In fact, my son had friends who had actually played the game. My heart sank! Back to the news report that started me on this journey. The boy who granted the interview had been in a coma for weeks after playing the game. He was now undergoing treatment to rehabilitate his body. When the interviewer asked him what drove him to play such a dangerous game, he simply replied, “stress.” Stress! What could a thirteen-year-old boy be stressed about? It’s a sign of the times. We live in a world where our children are experiencing stress at a very young age. Stress produced by school, sports, peer-pressure, and, yes, even our parental expectations! I encourage you to examine your relationship with your child and evaluate your demands of him or her. Are you piling on the stress by putting unrealistic expectations on them? From one demanding parent to another, back-off! Let them be immature and irresponsible teens once in a while. And as much as it pains me to say it, let them have a messy room now and again (I hate dirty rooms)! In a blink of an eye, they will be gone and we will walk into their nice clean rooms and ache at the sight. I’ll take a messy room occupied with my son over a nice and clean but empty room any day! As if parenting wasn’t hard enough now we have this dangerous craze to contend with! Will you do something for me right now? Go talk to your kid about this crazy game. Don’t wait another minute! You may be saving his life!

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