We’ve all heard the worst case scenarios. Teens addicted to drugs and alcohol. Homeless. Shattered. Dead. It is no wonder that it is easy to panic at the thought of your teen using. This is dangerous territory and can come with enormous and life-long consequences.
Yet it happens, and it’s important not to panic if you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol. The good news is that you still have a tremendous influence on your teen (whether they know it or not). And you don’t have to walk through this alone. There are numerous resources available to you including the wisdom of parents who have walked this road before you.
The first step is to stay informed and have a game plan to help your teenager. I’ve compiled some suggestions and resources below, including how to be proactive in discussing drug and alcohol use with your teen.
Know Your Teenager
Many times parents have admitted that they missed the signs of drug or alcohol abuse. The best way to avoid this is to know your teenager.
Pay attention and observe your teenagers. Really try to understand what makes them tick. Communicate regularly and often (see 10 Ways to Increase Communication for more on this).
A big problem when it comes to drugs and alcohol is lying. Parents who communicate regularly and are always striving to learn more about their teenagers will be more likely to catch the lies and notice signs of drug and alcohol use.
Talk about drugs and alcohol. Don’t avoid it. Ask what they know about them. Ask if they know people who use them. Watch their reactions.
Have a Policy About Drugs and Alcohol
Don’t ignore the issue of drugs and alcohol with your teenager. Make your rules clear: there are no drugs and no alcohol.
Explain your reasons – it’s illegal, it’s bad for your health, it impairs judgment. You can explain that for some people it’s highly addictive as well, but don’t make this your main argument because it’s not true for everyone.
Make sure your teenagers know you are on their team. The rules are not to squelch their fun, but to give them the best opportunities for success in the future. Encourage their feedback. Ask them why they think you are asking them not to drink alcohol or do drugs.
Establish clear and enforceable consequences. You can include your teenager in this process, especially if you have this discussion early on. But make sure your children understand what the penalties will be for breaking the rules.
Stay Calm and Enforce Consequences
If you do find out that your teenager has broken the no alcohol, no drug rule, stay calm. Remember, you are on their team. If you blow up, they will not see you as someone they can trust and confide in.
Unfortunately, many teenagers will experiment with drugs and alcohol. If you suspect your child has experimented, ask them what happened. Listen to both their words and observe their expressions and body language. How did they feel about what happened? What did they learn?
Try to understand what happened and your teenager`s perspective. Love and accept your teenager, but calmly enforce the consequences. It will probably be difficult, but your teenager needs to learn and understand the significance of breaking the rules.
If you Suspect More than Experimentation
It’s possible that your teenager has gone beyond the one or two time experimentation phase. Whether or not you have talked about drugs and alcohol openly with your child before, it`s important to ask them if they have a problem. For more help on how and what to ask, look up http://www.drugfree.org/think-child-using/your-first-step-ask/.
If your child admits they are using and have a problem, they have taken a significant step toward getting the help they need. Whether they admit a problem or not, find out more about knowing the signs, risk factors and more at http://www.drugfree.org/think-child-using/your-first-step-ask/.
Have a Plan
If your child has acknowledged a problem and you think they are not dependent on drugs or alcohol, you may be able to handle the problem without professional help. Again, drugfree.org is a great resource for understanding more and setting up a plan. Check out http://www.drugfree.org/know-child-using/i-know-my-child-is-using/.
Get Professional Help
The chances for your teenager to become happy and healthy after a drug problem are greatly increased if you intervene early. If you have tried on your own for a month or two and things have not improved, or you think your teenager may still be using, seek help.
Talk to your school counselor, physician and other parents who have dealt with the issue before. Do not give up.
Your teenager may resist getting help, blame you and worse. Keep trying. Do whatever it takes to save your teenager from following this dangerous path.
Drugs and alcohol are not toys that can be taken lightly. Abusing these substances causes hurt, shame, blame and all kinds of suffering. Please do not ignore this issue in the hopes that your teenager will be okay. Talk with them about it and take preventative measures to help them make wise choices.
http://www.drugfree.org/ – Partnership for Drug-Free Kids – Where Families Find Answers
http://www.canadadrugfree.org/ – Partnership for a Drug Free Canada
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/MakeADiff_HTML/makediff.htm – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism “Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol”
http://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/families-and-addiction.htm – Addictions and Recovery.org: Reliable Information for Individuals, Families, and Health Professionals
http://dfaf.org/ – Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.
http://www.12steptreatmentcentres.com/ – A list of 12 step treatment centres around the world
http://www.aa.org/ – Alcoholics Anonymous
https://www.lumierehealingcenters.com/what-is-addiction/ – Comprehensive article on addiction and recovery