As a parent, your number-one job is to support your children – to be their advocate, crying shoulder, and cheerleader when they need it most. Of course, as any parent will admit, these jobs don’t always come easy. If you have a teenager who is constantly going against the grain, opposing everything you ask, and putting themselves in harm’s way, you may feel a bit angry or “fed up.” If you have a son or daughter who is addicted to drugs, you may feel hopeless and lost. You might even blame yourself.
How can you be a great parent to your child, if you don’t feel like you’ve done your best?
This is a question troubling many parents with children in addiction recovery. They want the best for their sons and daughters. At the same time, they don’t feel like they’ve done their best. Many parents will blame themselves for their child’s drug problems, trying to pin-point just where they went wrong. This thinking, however, can be very detrimental. Addiction is a disease and no one – not you, not your child – is to blame for it. Consider these three C’s:
- Parents do not cause their child’s addiction
- Parents cannot control their child’s addiction or behaviors alone
- Parents cannot make their child change. That desire to change has to come from your child. However, you can make positive changes right now, to help support your child’s recovery.
Rather than thinking about you could have changed in the past, or how you can try to change your child now, think about how you can make a positive change for your family. For example, make lifestyle changes, such as establishing healthier routines, and change your attitude about substance addiction.
A Parents’ Role in Addiction Recovery
Research has shown that positive parent-child relationships, routinized home environments, consistent discipline, and non-harsh parenting practices can inhibit drug use and other risky behaviors in children. But what if your teenager is already in addiction treatment? What can a parent do to help support their child’s recovery, even if far away? The simple answer is: Stay involved.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, family involvement is especially important for adolescents in recovery: “Involvement of a family member or significant other in an individual’s treatment program can strengthen and extend treatment benefits.” Benefits of family involvement include better engagement from teens, higher rates of success, and increased participation in an extended care or sober living program.
As cited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), family therapy or involvement can also help adolescents stay in treatment. It reduces their risk of dropping out, reduces their risk of relapse, and reduces their continued use of alcohol or drugs. In other words, family – specifically, parent – involvement promotes long-term recovery.
Your child is your child. No matter how old he/she gets, or how distant he/she may feel in this moment, there is sometimes nothing more comforting than a parent’s love and support. That is why so many adolescents in recovery benefit from the positive reinforcement from their parents throughout the process. A parent’s support provides them with an extra shoulder to lean on, as well as more confidence and understanding throughout the recovery process.
While you can learn more about the benefits of family therapy here, you should also know that getting involved with your child’s recovery program can also benefit you. We already talked about the different emotions you might be feeling as a parent: fear, loss, shame, hurt, and disappointment are just a few. You deserve help and healing, too. By making positive changes in yourself, including a positive outlook, you can better help your son or daughter through the recovery journey.
A Parents’ Role in Preventing (or Reducing) a Child’s Drug Use
If your teen is using drugs and you are concerned, there are also steps you can take as a parent. You do not need to turn a blind eye, or tell yourself this is “just a phase.” All teens, no matter how engaged they are with drinking and using, can benefit from parent involvement, too.
Parents of teenagers often think that, as their children get older, they require more independence. While independence is a key part of development for teens and young adults, this doesn’t mean parents should step back from their lives completely. By staying involved with your child’s life, you can make a difference and reduce his or her risk of substance abuse.
A new national survey from the Center on Addiction found that parents (and parental monitoring) have the greatest influence on a teen’s likelihood to use drugs. Specifically, high levels of parental monitoring were associated with reduced odds of a teen having friends who use drugs (a major risk factor for drug abuse) and reduced intentions to use drugs in the future.
The author of the report – Dr. Linda Ritcher, PhD – shed light on the topic for parents, explaining, “Parents feel more comfortable monitoring their kids when they’re in middle school than when they’re in high school. But we found it’s more important than ever to be involved and talk with your kids when they’re in high school. The key is to be well-informed, and not seem out of touch—otherwise, teens will tune you out.” She further suggests that parents can stay engaged and in-touch by:
- Knowing your teen’s whereabouts and who he/she is hanging out with
- Knowing what your child is doing in his/her free time
- Monitoring your teen’s social media account
- Eating meals with your teen as frequently as possible
- Removing distractions during family meals, such as cell phones
- Setting clear and fair rules, and sticking to them
- Being up-to-date and well-informed about what substances your teen might encounter
- Keeping an open line of communication – be interested in your child’s interests, friends, plans, and fears. Be open to your child’s concerns or secrets, and receptive to any questions your child might have, no matter how difficult.
- Finally, seeking professional help early should a teen show any signs of risk. Do not be afraid to intervene. Early intervention is one of the best ways to help a drug-using teen.
More than half of the teens who took this survey (55.5%) described their relationship with their parents as “excellent.” About the same number reported that they believed the most common reasons kids stay away from drugs, is because of their parents. Parents can make a real difference, and it is never too late to do so.
To learn more about how parents can play a role in their son or daughter’s recovery, please do not hesitate to reach out or click here for more advice. To learn about how you can help a child who is abusing drugs, please call us right away. Turnbridge is an adolescent and young adult drug treatment center in Connecticut, equipped to address the unique needs of young people battling drug addiction. Call 877-581-1793.