Everywhere they look—television, billboards, magazines, the Internet, and the radio—adolescents see messages about alcohol, sex, drugs. According to The Journal of Adolescent Health, “those brands with higher youth-to-adult viewership ratios were significantly more likely to have a higher percentage of occurrences with addiction.” That means the things adolescents see in their everyday lives may negatively affect their behavior. More than one third of American teenagers are turning to alcohol or drugs: 32 percent saying they drink, 19 percent saying they use drugs, and 15 percent saying they do both. That can leave a parent feeling hopeless and out of control. So what can parents do to help?
Become a careful observer of red flags
The first step to any recovery is to become a careful observer of adolescents’ behavior, particularly the small details that make up their lives: changes in friends, sleep patterns, grades, moods, judgement, personality. Be careful not to jump to conclusions because adolescents’ addiction chemically alters their brains, so they are not always ready to hear what parents have to say. Create a nurturing home environment so teens will still receive the love and support they need and feel their parents are trustworthy. This is the time to listen to them and make a sincere effort to hear what they are going through and how it got to this point.
Rule #1: Have rules
From there, parents and teens can work together to take the steps to recovery. First, parents must set limits so teens know what is expected of them. Making specific rules will eliminate the excuses of, “I didn’t know” and the confusion of the “unspoken rule.” Together with rules need to be clear and specific consequences if the rules are broken. These consequences need to be firm, inflexible, and consistently carried out when a rule is broken. This helps adolescents know what to do and what not to do.
Don’t do it alone
Even though parents may think of professional help as a last resort, the earlier parents seek inpatient or outpatient treatment for their child’s drug or alcohol addiction, the better. Adolescent minds and bodies are still developing, so teen drug use can progress into addiction faster than in an adult. Because of this developmental period, teens do not always make the best decisions on their own. A qualified family or adolescent dependency counselor can evaluate and assess a teen’s substance abuse problem, and recommend appropriate treatment. The Right Step’s Adolescent Program works with teens and parents in either intensive outpatient or residential treatment settings, depending on what the therapist recommends. Therapy will focus on various areas of the teen’s life, in addition to relationships with parents. Having a close relationship with your teen opens the door for more interaction, allowing them to feel comfortable and honest with you. If you are a parent or know one who is unsure about how to help their teen, please call The Right Step at [phone] today.