According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), close to 25% of 18-20-year-olds will engage in substance abuse each month. This statistic is a concerning one, but it’s not as frightening as being faced with the prospect that your own child is not only using illicit substances but may be struggling with an addiction. It’s natural to feel a sense of panic, sadness and confusion, but to give your child the best chance of recovery, you need to become a source of support, stability and compassion. Here are some tips for parents of addicted children to help you place yourself in the right mindset during this challenging time.
Make Your Relationship as Honest and Strong as Possible
A person who is struggling with addiction may behave secretively or be deceitful in order to satisfy their addiction. This will weaken your parent/child relationship, so it’s essential that you take steps to keep the lines of communication open. Through effective communication, you will be able to understand your child’s issues better and can identify potential problems early on. Communication between yourself and your child needs to be assertive, and you should try to put your own emotions aside as much as possible. Ask questions which are open-ended so you can learn more from your child and your conversations should be free from judgment or blame.
Encourage Positive Behavior and Find the Right Treatment
Focusing on mistakes or poor decisions that your child has made is not helpful; it will only lower their self-esteem and make them feel powerless which may increase their chances of relapse. Encourage positive behaviours and make sure that they understand you are by their side through good and bad. Help them to find the right treatment plan whether that is through a medical detox, medication, experiential therapy, an addiction and mental health rehabilitation facility like Ignite Teen Treatment or talking therapy with a mental health counsellor.
Establish and Maintain Consistent Guidelines
You need to set clear expectations for your child in terms of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. A negative action should have a negative consequence and vice-versa. These guidelines should be determined with your child, and you should agree on what the consequences should be for unacceptable behaviour. This helps you to measure your reaction to problems and setbacks as they arise, and your child will have a framework on which to build more positive habits. Consistency is key to maintaining your guidelines because if you bend the rules occasionally, you are undermining their importance and may lose your child’s respect.
Outline Clear Boundaries
Boundaries are different from guidelines as they relate to how your child treats you and how you treat them rather than actions and consequences. It could be in terms of lying, manipulation or disrespectful behaviour. Ensure that both you and your child discuss these boundaries when you are both in a rational state of mind and, as with the guidelines, consistency is key.
Care for Yourself
It’s an instinct for a parent to want to place all their care and attention on their child during this difficult time, but it’s crucial that you don’t neglect your own physical and mental wellbeing during this time. You need to practice self-care in times of stress more than any other. If you are stressed, tired and emotional, you will be less likely to be able to maintain consistency and calm for your child. Set an example for your child in terms of a healthy lifestyle and make sure you’re getting the sleep, healthy diet and exercise you need to function.