If your teenager is addicted to drugs, you are likely feeling at sea, desperately hoping that the addiction can be treated and that your child can begin to live in a new way, free from their addiction and moving forward in health.
Take care of yourself, as you try to help your child.
Naturally, as a parent with a child addicted to drugs, you are going to experience stress, as well as a wide range of intense emotions from sadness, to fear, to anger. Practicing self-care will help you to support your child as they move from addiction to recovery:
The US Department of Health and Human Services has published advice for parents, like you, whose family has been rocked by a teen’s drug addiction, suggesting that you ask for help, accept offers of help, as well as join a support group and participate in fun activities with people you love.
Now, you may have decided that your child will benefit from drug or alcohol rehab, but how do you go about getting them into an outstanding program?
Here are five tips to keep in mind as you go forward:
1. But I don’t need rehab
Obviously, one of your goals will be to help your child understand that they will benefit from rehab; that they do need help to deal with the psychological, physical and social aspects of addiction.
Your teenager may not agree that they would benefit from rehab: They may speak to you about their friends, and how they use drugs, but are not being asked by their parents to consider treatment in rehab.
How do you help them to see that their addiction is unique to them? Speak about the fact that some of us are genetically wired to be more susceptible to addiction than others, and that people who are addicted to drugs need professional help to deal with their addiction.
Enlist the help of others: perhaps a trusted family member who has struggled with addiction and is in recovery who could speak to your teenager? Or maybe a trusted family doctor who knows your teenager could speak to them about their addiction and how alcohol or drug rehab is the best choice for dealing with the situation.
2. Rehab is scary. Don’t make me go
Teenagers may think of rehab as a prison; they may be leery of leaving their friends behind, of being without support. Or perhaps they just want to be home with you.
Be patient with your teenager if they express negative views about rehab, and help them to understand more about the rehab facility you have selected. Ask your teenager specifically why they have negative views of rehab and try to counter their imaginings with positive facts.
Reassure your child that you are on the path to recovery with them, that you will visit them in rehab and work hard to support them. It is important that your teenager make the decision to enter rehab as if they feel forced to do so; they are less likely to achieve positive outcomes.
3. Be aware that your child may have an underlying mental illness
Addiction often presents with mental illness; in fact, almost 8.4 million adult Americans have a mental disorder and an addiction, though most people are not treated for both conditions. Why not talk with your family doctor, raising the possibility that your child might have an anxiety disorder, depression or other illness?
If your doctor believes that it is warranted, they will refer you to a therapist or a psychiatrist. It may be that your teenager should participate in some therapy sessions before they feel prepared to enter a rehab program.
Remember that your teenager will look to you for cues on discussing therapy; Speak honestly about therapy, be direct and let your child know that there is nothing secretive or shameful it, but that it is a wholesome, hopeful healthcare service.
4. Frame your concern as an act of love
Teenagers, remember, are intense beings at the best of times. It can be trying to be caring and patient in the face of anger, bewilderment, sadness, and tears: remember that your child will look to you for stability in this storm and offer it. Be sure, as noted above, to practice self-care, so that you are prepared and calm during conversations with your teenager.
5. Remember, you are the parent
If your child is 17-years-old or under, you can force them to go to rehab, though this is not the preferred option. Teenagers, and others, usually benefit more from treatment when they choose to go to rehab, though you may determine, in consultation with a family doctor, that immediate treatment is necessary.
It is frightening for a teenager to be told that they must enter rehab, so ask for help from others in speaking to your child about their situation; perhaps a favorite aunt might be able to lend some credence to the choice of rehab. It may be that someone who works at your chosen rehab can speak to your child about what treatment could mean for them.
Remember that your teenager is likely to benefit from early intervention in their addiction problem: Some parents believe their teenagers when they say that they can stop using the chemical that they have become dependent on without help, but the research shows that this is highly unlikely.
There are reasons that your child began to use drugs, and they need to learn about why they take drugs and how they can learn other ways to live and to cope with the enormous stresses of teenage life.