Drug addiction, or substance use disorder, can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age, sex or ethnicity. However, when it’s a member of your family who is struggling with drug addiction, it can be extremely worrying — not knowing what to do or how to help and support them is possibly one of the biggest worries for parents. Here are some tips that will help.
Work on Your Relationship
Teens aren’t the easiest to get along with, and when they’re struggling with an addiction, communication can get even harder. It is, however, possible to turn this around and strengthen and rebuild your relationship. The best way to do it is with open communication. Non-judgmental and open-ended questions are the best way to talk with your teen about their addictive behavior. Start your questions with how, why, what or where.
Try not to get too emotional as this can have a negative effect. If you’re getting too upset, irrational or sarcastic, end the conversation and return to it when you’re better able to manage your emotions.
Encourage Positive Behaviors
A child who has a substance use disorder may also be dealing with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. To help them, you need to highlight the positives and encourage more desirable behavior. This might include helping them discover new activities and introducing them to a new group of people. Encourage them to be more optimistic about their life.
Help them research the different treatments available. You can also help by accompanying them when they visit treatment facilities and by attending appointments and family therapy. Many facilities also offer virtual tours that can help them feel comfortable before they visit.
Create Guidelines and Set Clear Boundaries
This is something you work on with your teen, and giving them a say in the process works best. Together you will set out a set of clear, consistent rules so that they know the consequences of their actions. You’re not going to be able to cover every eventuality, because as we know, teens can be very unpredictable and particularly inventive. However, if you’re able to cover the more likely scenarios, it’s going to reduce the chances of any over-reactions. Once the guidelines have been agreed upon, it’s vital that they are consistently enforced.
Teens are very good at pushing the boundaries, so it’s important you know what yours are. Think about things when you’re feeling calm, decide what you will and won’t accept and be certain you can apply them consistently. When your boundaries are clear, there’s little risk of you being an enabler.
Consider Your Own Needs
When you’re supporting and helping a teen who is struggling with their addiction, it can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Make sure your own needs are a priority too. Stress levels are going to rise, so you need to be able to manage it. Feelings of stress can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Taking care of yourself will reduce the chances of these happening, and it’s also a way of you leading by example.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. There are numerous agencies, organizations, and health professionals who are able to support your teen and the whole family.