What to Do When Drugs Invade Your Teen’s Life
You know from experience—your own childhood experience and the experience of raising your child—that the teenage years can be defined as a tumultuous phase of rebellion and experimenting. What you may not realize is that your teenager may also be smarter at hiding their behavior than you give them credit for, even if you have educated them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and routinely check their computer or social media communications.
Even if your teenager happens not to be rebellious, you have to remember that most teens are exposed to drugs and the peer pressure to use them is a significant influence.
As parents, you might not even recognize when your teen is on drugs and/or alcohol.
A Big Problem
According to Pinnacle Peak Recovery, an Arizona addiction recovery center, there are more than 23 million people suffering from addiction. This is a staggering number and if you don’t hear about it much on the news, it’s only because the problem has become so commonplace that it is no longer newsworthy unless associated with some major crime.
Perhaps just as alarming is that parents are often the last to know that their child is numbered among those suffering from a serious addiction. What this means is that by the time parents find out, it has become such a big issue that the teen is unable to hide it any longer.
Here are 4 things you can do:
- Talk about it.
Sometimes you may have no more than a feeling that something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. Trust this feeling.
Talk to your child about your concerns. Naturally, if there is no evidence, you won’t get far if you just blatantly confront them about it because they will deny everything and they may, in fact, be innocent.
A more successful approach might be to just talk generally about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. This might raise your teen’s level of awareness that behaving badly is not just a lark but there are serious legal and medical consequences that they may have to continue. Even if your child is innocent, this approach should serve as a fair warning.
However, what if you get a confession? Be prepared to act quickly and in a supportive way. Losing your temper or telling them how disappointed you are is only going to add shame and guilt to an already tense situation.
Here are two steps to take:
- Talk about how we all make mistakes and it takes courage to admit them. Be reassuring that you are willing to help them.
- Speak with a mental health counselor and get your teen into a treatment program.
- Monitor the situation.
If your teen reassures you that they have not experimented with drugs and alcohol or that they tried it a few times and decided against it, you should still continue to monitor the situation. Denial is not proof of abstinence.
- Decide on your policy about privacy.
If your child has done absolutely nothing to prove your suspicions, then you should respect their privacy or be open about how you plan to run periodic checks of their bedroom or devices.
However, the issue of respecting their privacy will harm them if you actually have found some evidence—drugs in their bedroom the smell of marijuana on their clothes, certain highly suspicious messages on Facebook or text messages.
This evidence may point to one of three things:
- They are selling drugs.
- They are buying drugs.
- They are using drugs.
They may be doing one or more of these things if you find evidence to prove that they are discussing drug or alcohol with their friends or have physical evidence in their room.
You have to remember that your teens are not independent adults. You may be forced to violate their privacy if you think you need to protect them.
- Rehearse your discussion.
It’s important to improve communication with your children. It’s not easy to have this type of conversation with your teen. With that in mind, here are some pointers to make it a little more manageable.
- Choose the right moment. If your teen comes home intoxicated or under the influence of a recreational drug, confronting them will only result in an emotional outburst. It is much better to talk to them when they are able to think about their behavior in a more objective manner.
- Rehearse exactly what you are going to say before you talk to them. Ideally, you should work with your spouse on this whole issue.
- Pick a time when your teen does not need to go somewhere and when there will not be interruptions.
- Approach the whole subject from the perspective of someone who wants to help rather than a stern parent. Avoid guilt, shame, or other approaches which will only result in a defensive response. Instead, focus on the underlying emotional pain that led them to the addiction.
Ultimately, your goal is to get your child into treatment and not to win them over to your way of thinking about values and life aspirations.