Parents and families face some of their most difficult battles which are raising their teenagers drug free. Most of us know that anti-drug efforts alone are not enough. Learning what works in preventing the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs will help, but do not guarantee that our teen stays drug free. When concerned, or suspicious, look for any self-destructive behavior, such as: intoxication, defiance, angry outbursts, manipulation, change in priorities, neglect of personal hygiene, or deteriorating school performance.
If we learn that our teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is important to place the responsibility for the way he lives into the proper perspective and allow him to be accountable for his choices. We can love him unconditionally, but we need to make sure that we are not enabling: Enabling means doing things that allow destructive behaviors to continue. Controlling, or punishing the teen does not always work; most teens seem to become more secretive, more rebellious, and defiant. If we focus on policing them, we end up misspending our efforts and energy, and not being effective. We get caught in a vicious cycle where the investigation, suspicions, accusations, and arguments never end. This leads to frustration and hopelessness.
It is said that a disease of addiction is a family disease. What it means is that the alcoholic/ addict is obsessed with the drug, and the family is obsessed with the problem/the addict. We need to make sure that we do not fall in this trap, but do something different, so that we can be effective in parenting our children, and helping them overcome their substance use problems.
What is encouraged is that the parents talk to their children about addiction and how it affects people’s lives in negative ways. One of the best tools found to help families in crises is effective communication skills. Our youth gets themselves in trouble with drugs or alcohol, and we as parents are either part of the problem, or part of the solution.
What can be done?
- As parents, we need to make sure to stay informed. Knowledge is power.
- We may also choose to join a support group (thus lead by an example).
- We try to engage them in conversation, asking questions, letting them tell us about their experiences; This will ultimately help them explore their use, and self-evaluate
- It is also more beneficial to focus on how their use is affecting them today, other than the long-term consequences of the substance.
- We need to watch our words carefully and make sure that we are not suck in the past, and continuously bring up past mistakes (as this will make the youth more agitated, upset, and discouraged).
You may also choose to encourage the young person to join a support group, or attend counseling. It is usually beneficial, and gives the teen an opportunity to connect with supports in the community and learn about services that are available to them. Also, it teaches them about options and ways to access help, and gives them someone to talk to, that is non-judgmental, impartial, and knowledgeable in the area of substance use and addiction. Remember that often times the family is too emotionally involved, and too close to the addict to be of help. It is hard to be objective, calm, and collected when we are dealing with issues so close to our heart. If help is available, why not take advantage of it, and at least gather some information, while modeling healthy behavior to our teenager.
Another important factor is taking care of ourselves, and making sure that we stay healthy and focused on things we can control. We need to remember that this disease does not discriminate against anyone or anything, and we as a parents are not to blame. We did not cause it; We cannot control, or cure it.