As a parent, your only wish is for your children to grow up happy and healthy. Sadly, for many parents this reality is interrupted by addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, results from a 2021 survey of over 32,000 teens found that roughly 30 percent of 12th grade students used substances.
While teen drug abuse statistics are high, the past year saw the most significant decrease in teen substance use since the survey began in 1975. These numbers are promising, and what’s even more promising is the growing awareness that parents have regarding their role in supporting teens through recovery.
In this article we’ll share the top tips for helping your child bear through this difficult time. Your support can usher in healing and meaning to their journey.
1. Accept reality
All too often parents live in denial that their teen is using drugs or alcohol and remain quiet on the subject, while an addiction quietly builds. In order to help your teen overcome substance use, it’s necessary that you as a parent or caregiver come to terms with the reality of the situation.
Accepting the fact of your child’s drug or alcohol use can bring up a lot of feelings and memories in yourself. Parents often experience guilt, wondering if their actions contributed to substance use. Parents may also feel helplessness, not knowing what to do or where to turn.
Accepting your teen’s addiction is challenging, but change and progress are impossible when you’re still in the denial phase. As a parent, you may consider it helpful to attend counseling to process this shock and get your bearings about your circumstances.
2. Educate yourself
The next step in supporting your teen through addiction recovery doesn’t involve your child at all, either. This stage is all about you, and increasing your knowledge base so you understand the science behind addiction, signs and symptoms of teen drug abuse and effective methods of treatment.
When you’re doing research on addiction and its effects, you’ll want to ensure you are using reputable sources. Here are some recommended sites and articles to get you started.
- Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Facing Addiction as a Family
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Treatment Facility Locator
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Parents: Facts on Teen Drug Abuse
- United States Drug Enforcement Agency: Get Smart About Drugs
The more you understand addiction and the way it manifests, the better you’ll understand your child’s behavior and the best way to intervene to decrease substance use— now and in the long term.
3. Enforce treatment
Professional treatment through psychotherapy and medication is the most evidence-based method of healing from substance use. While support at home can have a significant impact on your teen’s recovery, your loved one deserves the best shot at success through a rehab program.
If your teen is hesitant to start treatment, have a conversation about the benefits of rehab. Your teen may also be more inclined to attend if he or she knows the program is geared towards teens.
4. Accept your role
In order for your teen to experience successful recovery, a personal commitment must be made. While you can offer copious support and engage in every step of the process, true change can only come from an individual decision.
Nothing is harder than watching your child in pain, but accepting your role instead of forcing your child to amend his or her ways is essential. Enforce treatment, but don’t take it personally if it doesn’t go perfectly at first. Continue to offer love, affirmation and encouragement in the process.
5. Engage in lifestyle changes
For both teens and adults, healing from an addiction means that certain lifestyle changes will have to occur. Whether this means changing social groups, finding new hobbies or making new financial decisions, this is an area where parents can provide meaningful assistance.
Here are some examples of how you can aid your kid in fostering new passions and setting healthy limits.
- Help your teen sign up for new activities to engage with more positive peers
- Get a more limited phone plan to reduce contact with negative peers
- Pick your teen up after school
- Set a curfew
- Take your teen on one-on-one outings and try something new
- Take an exercise class together
- Spend time outside together
- Support your child financially in fostering a new hobby by providing supplies or paying fees for activities
- Sign your teen up for a retreat, a mission trip or a camp
- Help your child find a mentor
Your own parenting style and the culture of your family will come into play as you encourage healthy growth in your teen’s life. Regardless of the specific details, these actions will show your teen that you care and are willing to put in the quality time to help make a difference.
Don’t wait to start
The sooner you get started with the conversations and action steps, the better off your child will be. While the initial conversation about treatment may be uncomfortable, the momentary awkwardness is worth it.