How to Help a Teenager who Struggles with Addiction

March 9, 2020

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Raising teenagers is rarely easy. They’re bound to make mistakes along their journey towards adulthood, and sometimes those poor decisions involve developing an addiction to drugs and alcohol. No matter how good they are at hiding these things, it’s only a matter of time until mom or dad finds out.

There’s no easy answer to this predicament. Discovering that your child suffers from a potentially dangerous addiction certainly requires action on your part, but what exactly should your response be?

We’ve put together a helpful list of actions based on popular feedback from parents who have already dealt with this themselves. All of these tips are worth implementing, though it’s always a good idea to consult a professional such as a licensed therapist or counsellor to determine the approach that’s best for your unique situation.

Educate Yourself

Times are different. You may not really know what’s going on with your teen. Before you jump to conclusions, read up on drug addiction in teens. Learn the most common signs of an addiction problem and what to do if you do suspect it’s happening under your own roof. There is plenty of literature available online, at school, and at local treatment centers to help you educate yourself on teen addictions.

Talk to Them

The first thing you should do if you suspect a problem with your child is to talk to them. Ask them directly if they have ever experimented with drugs or alcohol. During your conversation, be open-minded without allowing them to think you are allowing them to continue down a bad path. You want them to feel like they can talk to you but not able to do whatever they want with no consequences.

When you talk to your teen, you need to make a point to listen. Let them tell you about their relationship with drugs and alcohol. You should also listen to them to see if they might have any problems that might cause them to turn to drugs down the line.

Avoid Enabling Behaviour

Many parents enable their children without even realizing it. To start with the obvious, do not let your children do things they aren’t allowed to do. You should not let them smoke, drink, or smoke pot. You certainly shouldn’t buy them these things, either. 

There are also other ways to enable, such as not punishing them for bad behaviour. If your children don’t see a problem with their behaviour, they won’t do anything about it and won’t understand when you attempt to do something about it later on.

Address Mental Illness Problems

If you do hear your child mention mental health issues or serious social issues at school, get them help. Take them to a therapist or a support group if they are willing to go. Getting to the root of a problem right away can help prohibit addiction issues from coming up in the future.

Get to Know Their Friends

As a parent, you have a right to know who your child’s friends are. Allow them to bring friends over at times and listen to them interact. The more you know, the easier it will be to spot a particularly bad influence. While it may not be wise to prohibit spending time with a friend, you can stay cautious when they hang out with particular friends.

Spend More Time with Them

You should get to know your kid’s friends, but you should also get to know your kid. Do things they like when you spend time with them. This bonding can make it easier for them to talk to you. It may also make them not want to disappoint you if they value your relationship.

Get Help

It can be difficult to talk to your child about drugs. Get help from other friends and family members. You can even get help from a professional if you feel like you are too far out of your depth with your teen’s addiction problems.

Get Them Treatment

If there is a problem, you need to get your child help as soon as possible. Get them to a rehab facility where they cannot do drugs. This will help them get clean and start on a new path before the addiction is overwhelming for both you and your child.

Continue Treatment

After rehab, you need to continue treatment to address the deeper problems that led them to rehab in the first place. Get your child a therapist to help them remain sober after rehab. If they don’t like the idea of a therapist, your teen might prefer a support group or AA-type of program.

Understand That Many Teenagers Relapse

Addiction is a daily struggle, so it’s normal for people to relapse. While you don’t want them to think this behaviour is acceptable, try to be understanding once or twice as long as they continue to work on their sobriety.

Recovery after relapse is challenging, but it’s not impossible. In fact, a potentially life-threatening relapse may be the final thing that tips the scales and leads to long-term recovery. So don’t view relapses as a failure — view them as an opportunity to bring about a positive change, and give your teenager the full support that they need to recover.

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