Parents, whether biological or guardians of their children, strive to protect their children from illness and injury. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that parents feel shocked and unprepared as soon as they find out that their children have developed an addictive behavior. Sometimes, parents also end up blaming themselves for this or, otherwise, resenting their teenager for mixing with peers who influence him negatively or for disobeying household rules. In reality, there is no one single cause and it is the result of a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and social factors.
Setting Boundaries with your Teen
Since we are dealing with minors, parents need to clarify expectations and set clear boundaries for their children, especially when it comes to drinking or drug abuse. Most of the time, peer influences act as a barrier and parents need to work past this to get through their children. This is especially true since young people tend to place a great deal of value on the opinions of their peers rather than their parent’s perspective.
As parents, you shouldn’t take it personally if you suspect that your teen is using as no family is immune and even the most loving, connected and healthy families can find themselves in this situation. Moreover, listening to what other people have to say about your son and daughter might help as an outside observer is able to view the situation with fresh eyes and notice a problem.
Expect Repeated Patterns
There is a high probability that a sense of discomfort is present whenever parents need to talk to their teen about this. Most probably, this will not be a one-time thing as there will be a series of conversations, but everytime you talk you will be making a difference. It is very likely that these conversations will not always go as planned, however you do not need to be discouraged and keep in mind what you would like to achieve from your conversation whilst being realistic. By adopting such an approach, your teen will realize that you are in touch with what is happening and that it is safe enough to tell you what you need to know. Moreover, trying to have a conversation with them when under the influence won’t work as the part of them that receives such information will be temporarily off. This also applies to you whenever you are angry as you would need to calm down as, otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to think and respond appropriately.
Sometimes, your teen’s response can also be predictable.
Therefore, make sure to have your evidence ready in case they tell you that they aren’t using it. They might even tell you that it’s none of your business and, in this case, you would need to explain to them that the drug use also affects your life since you are connected to them and you are the adult who loves them. Your teen might even tell you that you can’t control them and they are perfectly right, however this is all about keeping them safe. Moreover, as much as they have a right to their privacy, you have a right to the truth and reassure them that you will respect their privacy as long as you can feel sure that they are telling the truth.
Have an Open Conversation
Rather than trying to agree with them whether drug use is a problem, discuss the behaviour that is present and the differences you want to see. As a parent, work out a plan that includes boundaries and consequences for crossing these boundaries, help them find something to replace the drug, for instance activities that are challenging, engaging, and a little risky, and get them moving. On a final note, professional help is recommended both for your teen and for yourself as what you’re both doing is very hard and it’s possible not to do it alone.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.
Editorial Staff (2022). Guide for Parents of Addicted Kids & Teens Part II: Intervening & Help. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/guide-for-parents-ii
Young, K. (2016). Teens and Drugs. What Parents Can Do – The Signs. The Conversation. The Response. Retrieved from https://www.heysigmund.com/teens-drugs-parents-need-know-conversation-response/