When a child has an addiction, it’s the parent’s concern as much as the child’s. Many parents are willing to do anything necessary to help their teen return to a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, they are usually left feeling helpless, confused, and scared.
Having a plan to help can lessen the feelings of hopelessness and fear. It’s when parents feel they aren’t doing enough for their teens that the bad feelings come out. Parents don’t have to feel helpless. There are a number of steps they can take to help their child.
6 steps to keep in mind when helping your teen overcome addiction:
1. Admit it: The first step is not yours, but your teens. She has to be able to admit there’s a problem. Admitting this can be difficult. Why? Because admitting to addictions is admitting that something is wrong, it’s admitting to a bad mistake, it’s admitting to having no control over her behaviour, and it can be like admitting that she isn’t good enough. Admitting to it may also mean listening to your disapproval. If your teen isn’t willing to admit she has an addiction, however, it's harder to move to the next step. How can you help your teen fix something that in her eyes isn't broken?
2. Get professional help: Dealing with addictions isn’t easy and having a professional on your side will give you a feeling of comfort and a peace of mind. You won’t have to second guess yourself and your approach to helping your teen. This can be a highly emotional journey for you and for her. If you’re worried about the stigma attached to getting professional help, then choose to focus on getting her the help she needs to resume a happy life. It’ll all be worth it at the end.
3. Stay positive, hopeful, trusting, and patient: Trust can be difficult to give when your teen has already broken it. Staying positive, patient, and hopeful can be even harder when you’re at the bottom of the hole. Your trust and hopeful attitude, however, might be what keeps her going in the positive direction. This may deter her from disappointing you. If you need to yell, scream, or to speak to someone then find a therapist, someone who is objective, will keep your information confidential, and can give you advice that works. Taking it out on your child for ruining the family order will not help anyone.
4. Stay a team: You are a family and a family should always be a team. Don’t break yourselves up into Team Parents (the right team) and Team Teen (the wrong team). Breaking an addiction is hard enough; it makes it even harder if your teen has to deal with constant criticism from you. Give your teen a reason to stay on track instead of a reason to fulfill your negative expectations of her inability to make good decisions.
5. Do your research: Understand what your teen is going through by doing the research BEFORE you try to help your teen. Parent’s typical response is to jump in and save the child. If you don't know much about addictions (who, what, where, when, why) you're more likely to push your child away than to help her. When you are knowledgeable you’ll be able to identify with your teen. The more she feels you know about her situation, the more she’ll feel you understand her.
6. Stay on top of things: Correct any faulty, negative, and hopeless thinking, keep all appointments, be available to talk, make a family plan that is fair to you and your teen that will help you stay on track. Explain to your teen she is your priority (perhaps up till now she felt she wasn’t even important to you?). By staying on top of things, without being invasive (showing distrust), you’re showing your teen you care and that she is your main concern.
Best Wishes To You and Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto