Purposeful Parenting Month: How parents can help with teen drug addiction

Teen years are a glorious time for some who are to make new friends, form social circles, develop new interests and create a new identity for themselves. But for some, the picture may be grim. The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be a turbulent period characterized by considerable physical, emotional and behavioral changes. During this phase, teens may experience complex internal transformations and external circumstances, which can lead to the development of unhealthy and addictive habits such as smoking, drinking and drug addiction. Parents may be disconcerted to notice that a once happy-go-lucky boy has metamorphosed into a hostile, reclusive and defiant youngster. Bloodshot eyes, long periods of absence from home, increased isolation and irritability, friendship with disreputable kids and discovering drug-related apparatus in the teen’s room may also confirm parents’ worst fears regarding their child.

Young boys may be drawn to drugs for various reasons. For some, it is perhaps the easiest way of “fitting in” with their high school peer groups. Others may use drugs as a means of self-medication for underlying issues such as depression or anxiety. Some youngsters, who may be simply bored, experiment with drugs to experience the high from indulging in a risky and forbidden activity. Teens are also influenced by films and music which perpetuate the drug culture by projecting it as a “cool” and normal activity. They may also use drugs to elicit their parents’ attention. An unfortunate outcome of all these situations is drug dependence and addiction.

Parents may feel helpless watching their child go down the path of self-destruction but their support is vital in helping their kids overcome drug addiction. As Americans celebrate the Purposeful Parenting Month in July, it is important to reinforce the contributions of active and engaged parents. Meaningful relationships between teens and their parents can minimize the risks posed by drug addiction and facilitate recovery among drug-dependent kids.

Groundwork for parents

If parents want to discuss the issue of drug dependency with teens, thorough groundwork needs to be done before initiating a conversation. Some parents may have already found drugs, drug-related apparatus, drug paraphernalia and other incriminating evidence of drug use. It is important to note down all observations related to the teen’s drug use, including information such as dates, time and other details wherever possible. Given that a single conversation may not be enough to convince the child to give up drugs, parents need to plan a series of discussions comprising specific action points and desired outcomes.

From the very first conversation — and in every subsequent conversation — parents should control the urge to reprimand, threaten or lecture the child. A conciliatory approach may set the tone for a more meaningful discussion between parents and teens. Even though parents might be disappointed with their youngster’s actions, they must continue highlighting their strengths and abilities during this difficult period to provide reassurance. The objective should be to keep them engaged in the discussions so that they agree to return to a healthier lifestyle gradually. Parents must also specify reasonable rules for the teen to follow.

Parents can also connect with the teen’s school for help and guidance. Some schools may be affiliated with a substance abuse program or offer the services of a counselor within the campus. These may prove to be very helpful resources for anxious parents who are unsure of how to approach their teens for a discussion. One of the approaches which parents can explore is to get the teen involved in group activities, hobbies and other positive pursuits. Although teens do not appreciate parents’ interference, the help of an outsider (such as a coach, a mature friend or a member of the extended family) can be solicited.

Psychiatric help is a must for teen drug addiction

If parents are certain that their child is addicted to drugs, it is imperative to seek medical and psychiatric help. Primary care physicians should be the first point of reference to examine the child physically and run diagnostic tests to establish the severity of drug use along with the extent of the damage. The next step is to seek help from a therapist who specializes in teen drug abuse and mental health problems. Inputs from the physician and the therapist may help parents decide if their child needs to be admitted to rehab.

White River Academy is one of the premier therapeutic boarding schools for boys aged between 12 and 17. Our activities and therapeutic models treat drug addiction and other mental illnesses, giving students a better chance at a brighter future. Learn more about our programs and evidence-based boarding schools for troubled children by calling our 24/7 helpline or chatting online with a counselor.

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