5 Tips for Parents Dealing With Teen Substance Abuse

By The Fix staff 07/23/18

Catching substance abuse early can help guide a teen back on track and potentially avoid years of physical, emotional, financial and legal repercussions.

Group of young people, one young woman is smiling at the camera.

Teen substance abuse is serious. According a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 7,800 people in the US begin using illicit drugs every day and more than half are under the age of 18. Finding out a teen is using drugs can be a scary and stressful experience for a parent. 

The good news is that there's help! Safe Landing in Miami, Florida is a treatment center that focuses exclusively on adolescent addiction treatment. This is a great option for families seeking help for substance abuse. This facility offers client-centered care using evidence-based methods including behavioral therapy techniques, mindfulness training and other life skills that are crucial to teens developing a healthy sense of self. 

Searching for credible substance abuse resources can be overwhelming. The first thing to do is to take a step back and analyze what is going on. To help cut through the confusion, we have put together a list of tips to guide you through the process of getting your child help.

1. Don’t assume it’s just a phase. 

Safe Landing understands that most adults who face substance abuse disorders started using drugs or alcohol as teens. While some adults will excuse teen substance abuse as "experimentation" it is important to remember that nobody sets out to become an alcoholic or an addict. Often, addiction begins as social or "fun" and can escalate quickly based on mental and emotional health and other factors. Sure, teens will go through many phases as they mature. However, unlike other short-term stages in your teen's development, using drugs can have permanent consequences.

Catching substance abuse early can help guide a teen back on track and potentially avoid years of physical, emotional, financial and legal repercussions. Treatment at Safe Landing recognizes the importance of this and focuses on getting teens sober and teaching them how to stay that way. Safe Landing blends treatment and education through virtual schooling, in-class instruction for core subjects, GED, SAT, ACT and college prep and career coaching. Life skills training includes developing crisis management skills, healthy nutrition and fitness routines, financial accountability, time management and effective communication.

2. Empathy is vital—for your child and yourself. You’re not to blame, but your job is to find a solution. 

When you first discover your child is using drugs or alcohol, you will probably be angry. This is a perfectly natural reaction, but try not to lash out because this may push them deeper into self-destructive behavior. Remember, just because you have lost trust in them doesn't mean they have lost trust in you. Keeping the lines of communication open with your kid during this difficult time is crucial. You are not responsible for your teen's bad decisions, but your job as a parent is to help them learn to solve problems.

Often, you are only seeing the symptoms—things like changes in hairstyle, dress, broken curfews and trouble at school—not the deeper problems. Teens struggle with an array of complex issues that can manifest as substance abuse. Difficult emotions, peer pressures, family dynamics and underlying mental health issues can all reinforce self-destructive coping mechanisms. Finding professional help for the underlying causes of your teen's drug abuse is the first step in the healing process. 

3. Be on the same page with your co-parent and follow through.

You probably already know that parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. This can be even more difficult if you are doing it alone or at odds with your child’s other parent. When it comes to dealing with a crisis, it is crucial to be in close communication with your co-parent and present a united front to your child. If you decide to send your child to rehab, both parents should make the decision together and follow through with the required steps.

Having a treatment professional mediate the process can be useful in situations where emotions are running high. With this in mind, the admissions department at Safe Landing can work with the entire family to make sure everybody understands the options. Finding the right program is important for recovery, Safe Landing offers several options including inpatient care, a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and an Intensive Outpatient Program (PHP).

4. Get support for yourself.

Dealing with a child who is struggling with substance abuse is stressful. It is important that you find support for yourself so you can manage the added pressure and cope effectively. Safe Landing can provide resources for the whole family, including family therapy that includes your child and referrals for support groups or counselors for yourself. There’s no shame is getting help, for you and for your child. Finding extra support during a troubled time can help you be at your best for your family.

5. Be prepared to support your child in long-term lifestyle changes.

The goal of treatment is to facilitate a lasting change in your child. Be prepared for your home life to adjust accordingly. There may need to be more structured boundaries in the home, a new style of communication, a different schedule or transportation to meetings or counseling sessions provided. These things can all help your child develop a firm foundation in recovery. You may need to continue in family therapy or an outside support group beyond the initial treatment. The team at Safe Landing can support you and your child every step of the treatment process. Having professionals who are trained to deal with teen substance abuse can help you make informed decisions that are best for your family.

Even great parents have kids who struggle with substance abuse. Unfortunately, for some teens, anti-drug messages are not enough and rather than resisting the lure of drugs, they gravitate toward them. Ultimately, each teen makes the decision to use or not to use. As a parent, if you discover drugs or paraphernalia in your home, you may wonder where you can turn for help.Fortunately, there are specialized programs like Safe Landing in Miami designed to work with families to support recovery and a successful future for everyone.

Reach Safe Landing by phone at (888) 982-6244 or by email at [email protected]. Find Safe Landing on Facebook and YouTube.

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