Teen addiction is never something a parent wants to deal with. However, the harsh reality is that one in seven teens struggle with some form of addiction in the United States today. In light of these staggering statistics on teen addiction, more and more parents are grappling to find supportive ways to help teens through addiction and recovery. To that end, here are some life-affirming strategies to encourage teens to embrace recovery and get the help they need to live long, healthy lives well into adulthood.
Use Positive Language
The whole subject of addiction is riddled with negative connotations. More often than not, teens experience tremendous amounts of guilt, and they often feel shame about their dependence on alcohol or drugs. Given this, teens are less likely to talk about addiction with their parents.
You can turn that around by putting less focus on the negative aspects of addiction and talking about the issue in positive ways. For example, instead of saying something like, “If you keep this up, you’re going to ruin your life.” – you might opt for a more uplifting spin, such as, “You have so much promise and potential. Let’s work together to help you thrive today and in the future.”
Point Out the Silver Linings of Recovery
If you’re like many parents, you’ve researched reputable teen treatment programs that can provide your child with the professional and quality rehabilitation he or she deserves. But what about breaking the news to your kid about the prospects of going into recovery? That’s a tough discussion that can be highly charged.
Diffuse this potentially explosive conversation about choosing to admit your teen into a recovery program by pointing out the silver linings. Present treatment as an opportunity to get a fresh start. Remind your teen that this can be a chance to make lifelong friendships. Reinforce the fact to your teen that they will obtain skills that can revolutionize their lives. The point here is to maneuver the conversation by using life-affirming tones rather than focusing on the perils your teen might perceive by entering into an inpatient or outpatient addiction program.
Acknowledge Your Teen’s Fear and Feelings
It’s no secret that teens are notorious for running the full gamut of emotions. When it comes to opening up a dialogue about your teen’s addiction and recovery, your child’s feelings might be in hyperdrive. Many teens feel victimized, frustrated, angry, or out of control. While these feelings are understandable, they can be so powerful that they often staunch any hope of healing.
Therefore, make a concerted effort to acknowledge the emotions that are running rampant within your teen. This isn’t about reacting to their fears or feelings (although you certainly can offer verbal soothing if you have the opportunity). Instead, this is more about showing your teen that you accept them, love them, and support them through this challenging time.
As mentioned, there is often a great deal of shame circling around the subject of addiction, teens are frequently already predisposed to have feelings of guilt. They may feel like any attempt to get them treatment, or help is a gesture of judgment because they themselves feel shameful about addiction. With this in mind, make every effort to suspend judgment. Eliminate language that is accusatory or demeaning.
Now, we understand you would never verbally degrade your child intentionally – but sometimes our words come off as judgmental even when we don’t intend them that way. This is especially true in parents with no experience with addiction and simply can’t understand why their teen is going through this – much less how to approach the issue. Remind your teen that you are there to support them. Purposefully show them your love, and let them know that you accept them – No. Matter. What.
Don’t Forget to Support Yourself
Supporting your teen through his or her recovery from addiction can be potentially exhausting. That’s why it is crucial that you take time for yourself whenever possible.
After all, your ability to help your teen is significantly reduced if your own energy is depleted. Recruit help from others, join a support group, and reserve a chunk of time every week that is exclusively devoted to you and your own well-being. Doing so will put you in a better position to help and support your teen with addiction and recovery.