Mistakes Parents Make When Their Teen Is Using Drugs
If you think that your teenager is using drugs, it’s hard to know what to do. It can be absolutely overwhelming and confusing.
(press release: summitbehavioralhealth) // New Jersey // Maria Ulmer MA, LMFT, CAADC | Chief Clinical Officer
While you don’t want to overreact, you also know that it isn’t something that you can just ignore. Don’t be afraid to confront your teen about their drug use and seek help for them. To help you, here is a list of mistakes that some parents make when dealing with their teen’s drug use and some tips on how to help your teen that is using drugs.
Hiding Your Own Past Drug Use
If you ever did drugs in the past and your teenager asks you about it, you may be tempted to lie. However, there are some benefits to being honest with your teen. When you are questioned about your past drug use and you are honest, it opens the lines of communication between you and your teenager, and they will be far more likely to tell you about their own experiences or concerns related to drug use. It also builds trust. By telling the truth and talking about your experience, you are showing your teenager that you find him or her trustworthy, and that goes a long way with a teen.
Believing That It’s Just a Phase
Sometimes parents believe that experimentation with drugs and alcohol is some sort of “rite of passage” for teenagers, and that they will either engage in it once in a while and nothing bad will happen, or they will simply outgrow the behavior. Too often, parents of young people who use drugs fail to think about addiction and the other negative consequences that drug use and underage drinking can cause. You have to be very clear when you discuss the risks of drug and alcohol use with your teens.
Talking to Your Teen When They’re Under the Influence
If you catch your teenager when they are in the middle of using drugs or drinking, or if you know for a fact that they are under the influence, you will likely want to talk to them, or yell, or lecture, right then. That isn’t effective at all, and they may become combative and defiant. It’s better to wait until the effects of the drugs or alcohol have worn off so you can have a serious talk that they will be more likely to hear.
Blaming Yourself or Others
Taking the blame for your teen’s behavior or blaming your spouse or other person, will only make the situation worse. When it’s a child involved in drug or alcohol use, it’s really important that the adults in his or her life present a united front and offer support and encouragement for the teen to get help.
Enabling Your Teen’s Drug Use
It isn’t easy being a parent, even in the best of times. You want what is best for your kids and you may think that helping them with the negative consequences of their drug or alcohol use is what is best. However, covering up your teen’s drug use can have serious repercussions. It’s important to let them face the consequences that their behavior has gotten them into, otherwise you are enabling them to continue and that could have dire, even fatal, consequences. You can still show them love and support as they are dealing with the results of their drug use, letting them know that you will help them with seeking treatment and getting sober, but that you cannot help them with continuing to use.
Setting a Bad Example
If you drink or use drugs yourself and you think that your teenager doesn’t know it, think again. One of the best ways that you can show teens that they don’t need to do drugs or alcohol to have a good time is to model the behavior yourself.
If there’s one thing that teenagers hate, it’s being judged. Although you have to lay down the law as a parent, it’s important to not do so in a judgmental way. Doing so will quickly cut the lines of communication and may cause your teen to turn away from any help that is offered. Showing concern and empathy while still maintaining control will get you much closer to your teen’s recovery.
Not Paying Attention
There are a lot of changes that happen to kids in the teenage years – that’s a given. But if you notice that there are changes in your teen’s sleep pattern, their grades, or the group of friends he or she is hanging around with, you may be observing warning signs of drug use or addiction. Sometimes these types of changes are chalked up to typical adolescent behavior, but you should pay attention, investigate, and talk to your teen before you decide that is the case.
Ignoring Your Teen’s Mental Health
People who use drugs or alcohol sometimes do so as a way to self-medicate because they have deeper psychological issues – teenagers are not exempt from this. There are often underlying issues involved in substance abuse, so if you think that your teen has a drug or alcohol problem and are seeking help, be sure that part of that help is a mental health evaluation. When someone has co-occurring disorders, it’s crucial that both the substance abuse and the mental health condition are treated at the same time. If only one is treated, there is little chance of recovery.
Delaying the Drugs and Alcohol Talk
As parents, you know that you need to have certain discussions with your children. One of them is the talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It may be tempting to put off that talk until you think that your kids are more mature and will better understand what you are talking about. In reality, kids are starting to be exposed to drugs and alcohol at younger and younger ages, which means that your children are never too young to hear about the dangers. Of course, you have to simplify the conversation based on your children’s ages, but don’t put it off.