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Five Tips for Parents of Teens Who Use Drugs or Alcohol

Five Tips for Parents of Teens Who Use Drugs or Alcohol, child struggling with substance use,

When parents realize that their teenager (or pre-teen) has been using drugs or alcohol, they are often shocked, confused, and frightened. They wonder how it could have happened. The truth is that most young people have experimented with drugs and/or alcohol before the age of twenty. Unfortunately, this natural inclination to experiment can quickly become a problem depending on the substance and frequency of use. Some young people will become addicted to substance use before they reach puberty.

If you are one of the many parents who have a child struggling with substance use, here are five tips to help you provide the understanding and stability your child needs to aid their recovery and help you through this difficult time.

Learn How Drugs Change Your Child’s Brain and Behavior

If your child came down with a disease such as diabetes or asthma, you would want to learn everything about it. Addiction is a disease. It is a chronic brain disease that causes changes to the brain’s chemistry and makes it impossible for the individual to make rational decisions. A person with a substance use disorder craves their drug and will do whatever it takes to satisfy their craving regardless of future consequences.

Talk to Your Child in a Way that Strengthens Your Relationship

Having good communication with your child is essential. Learning to communicate in an open and assertive way will help to rebuild and strengthen the relationship that has deteriorated because of drug use. Good communication, which includes active listening and asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions, will help you detect and address problems early. Always make sure to really hear what your child is saying and allow them to express their struggles, concerns, and hopes. Always remain respectful and kind to your child, stay focused and engaged, and show a sense of understanding and acceptance.

Set Clear Boundaries 

Setting clear boundaries clarifies the things you will and will not do for your child. Most people with a substance use disorder, regardless of their age, are very good at testing or pushing the boundaries of their loved ones. When you are calm and thinking clearly, think about what you will and won’t accept. It will help you to stay consistent when your child tests your boundaries. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do I expect my child to treat me?
  • Will I lie for my child?
  • Will I sacrifice my needs for the wants of my child?
  • Will I accept a certain level of substance abuse or none at all?

Boundaries help to make a clear distinction between enabling or helping your child.

Create Clear Guidelines and Reinforce them Consistently 

By setting clear guidelines and expectations for your child, you will help them understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. When the rules are clear and consistent, the desired outcomes are improved. Clear guidelines also help you to determine how you will react to situations as they come up. It is best to develop the guidelines with your child, so everyone knows the specific consequence of a behavior before it happens. A guideline should be a cause-and-effect statement. For example, if (action) occurs, the consequence will be (response). Regardless of how clear your guidelines are, they will not be effective if you don’t enforce them. 

Encourage Positive Treatments and Behaviors

Don’t focus on your child’s poor decisions and mistakes. Doing that will have a negative effect on them and cause them to have lower self-esteem, a diminished sense of self-confidence, and a decreased feeling of personal power. All of those things can lead to continued drug or alcohol use. Keep the focus on encouraging desirable behaviors and emphasizing the positive things your child has accomplished. By being optimistic and encouraging, you are helping to build a sense of cooperation while reducing negativity and conflict. This will encourage and enable your child to try healthy new coping skills, build peer relationships that are appropriate, engage in new activities, and face challenges.

If You Need Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is help available at Canyon Vista Recovery Center located in Mesa, Arizona. Our caring team of professionals use a combination of evidence-based addiction treatments, psychiatric care, and holistic therapies, addressing all aspects of the disease. Give us a call and start your journey to a clean and sober life.

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About programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center

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