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Parents: How to Help an Addicted Teen

As a parent, it can be easy to take your teenager’s addiction personally. Anger and betrayal are common feelings when a parent first discovers that his or her child has been using drugs. While these feelings are normal and common, it is not beneficial to express them when it comes to resolving the issue at hand.

DrugsKeep reading to learn how parents can help guide their children away from addiction and into recovery, and strengthen their relationship at the same time.

  • Consider surrounding circumstances. What else is happening in your teen’s life that could be leading to substance abuse issues? Have there been family changes or problems at school? If your teen will not open up to you about the root of his or her angst, seek the help of a professional therapist.
  • Avoid harsh punishment. Unfortunately, simply grounding teens or taking away privileges will not be enough to eliminate addiction. Addiction is not just behavioral—it is psychological. Parents should discuss and be clear about the consequences of drug use or underage drinking with their children. But focus more on the real-life consequences and less on what mom and dad will do—addiction is a devastating disease, and that’s a lot more serious than getting a privilege taken away. Remember that your teen is up against something stronger than them, and they need real help.
  • Encourage healthy behavior. Help your teen overcome dependence or addiction by providing a healthy lifestyle for them. Get outside and spend time as a family when you can. Find local sports or extracurricular activities that will not only keep your child busy, but help them grow and fulfill them on a truer, deeper level than drugs can. Plus, activities and hobbies your child enjoys will help ward off cravings and other anxieties that come with recovery.
  • Be understanding. You will get a lot further with an addicted teen by using kindness and love than by using criticism and judgment. Avoid pointing out how the addiction is negatively impacting your own life. Avoid telling stories of how you never went down the same path. Use that energy to encourage your child to come to you with their issues and concerns and be a listening ear. The more that your teen tells you about his or her addiction, the more you can help in the recovery.
  • Find the help you need. Family support may not be enough when it comes to addiction. Luckily, there is a variety of options to turn to for help. Rehabilitation centers, outpatient programs, and therapy sessions (individual, family, or group), and 12-step programs are all effective methods to cope with and overcome addiction. There are countless modes of therapy to fit any personality, and your child should not feel ashamed of getting outside help. This is an empowering move that shows immense strength.

If you find yourself in the very challenging situation of dealing with a child or other loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, remember first that your loved one has an illness and needs help and support. You also need support and don’t have to go through it on your own—reach out for help from addiction recovery programs to help your child and family get on the right track.