My Teen Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol: Common Mistakes to Avoid

As a parent, it can be incredibly distressing to discover that your teenager is using drugs or alcohol. Although substance use among teenagers can be a common and developmentally appropriate form of exploration and identity formation, it can lead to problems with potentially devastating consequences when done in excess.

Key takeaways:

If you suspect your teen is using drugs or drinking alcohol, it's essential to address this issue head-on and take steps to help your child. Still, it's also crucial to avoid common mistakes that exacerbate the situation.

This article will explore some of the things you should avoid doing if you suspect your teen is using drugs or alcohol. By avoiding these pitfalls, you can better support your child and help them overcome their substance abuse.

Don't ignore the problem

If you suspect that your teen has a substance abuse issue, the most important thing you can do is address the issue head-on. While it makes sense that some parents prefer to ignore the problem and hope that it resolves itself, this can make things worse. It’s common for teenagers who use drugs or alcohol to feel isolated and alone, which can make them hesitant to seek help from their parents. By addressing the issue and showing your support, you can help your child feel more connected and open to seeking help.

It can also be hard for some parents to accept that their teen has a problem with drugs or alcohol. You may feel afraid about what this means for your family or what others will think about you. Do your best to push those feelings aside and know that by addressing the issue and getting help, you’re doing what’s best for your child.

Don't enable your teen's substance use

Some parents take an alternate approach by enabling their teen’s substance use, reasoning that teens should use substances in the house or with parental supervision. Unfortunately, this approach can do more harm than good. Providing your teenager with drugs or alcohol, or allowing them to access it, can put them at risk of serious health problems, such as addiction and overdose. It can also reinforce their behavior and make it more difficult for them to stop using substances.

Additionally, enabling your teenager's substance use can prevent them from seeking help and making positive changes in their life. If your child knows that they can use drugs or alcohol without facing any consequences, they may be less motivated to seek help or to change their behavior.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your teen’s substance use by being explicit about what behavior you find unacceptable and the associated consequences. It’s also important that the boundary has a clear and relevant connection to the consequences. For example, a boundary might be, “If you come home with alcohol on your breath, I won’t allow you to use my car anymore because I can’t trust that you’re not drinking and driving.”

Setting boundaries also requires consistently enforcing them, which means following through with the consequences you have established, even if it's difficult or uncomfortable. Consistently enforcing boundaries can help your teenager to understand the seriousness of their behavior and can motivate them to make positive changes.

Don't shame and blame

Shame is a powerful emotion that can fuel substance abuse, as individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape from negative feelings. While you might feel compelled to express frustration and disappointment towards your child, avoid doing so in ways that will increase their feelings of shame and negative self-esteem. Instead, focus on providing them with support and compassion. This can help create a sense of connection and trust and make your teenager more open to seeking help.

You might also feel the urge to blame yourself for your teen’s substance abuse issues. Remember that substance abuse is a complex issue with many contributing factors, including environmental and social factors, as well as genetics. Instead of blaming yourself, focus on helping your teen get the help they need.

Don't try to handle it on your own

Although you might be tempted to handle the situation on your own or within your family, it’s incredibly important to seek professional help and support for substance abuse issues. Substance abuse is a complex issue that requires professional support and guidance. It's important to seek help from therapists and counselors with experience working with teenagers and substance abuse.

It's also important to remember that dealing with a teenager who is using drugs or alcohol can be emotionally taxing. Remember to take care of yourself and seek support for yourself as well. This can include seeking therapy, joining a support group, or simply talking to friends and family members about your experiences. By taking care of yourself, you can better support your teenager and help them through this difficult time.

As a parent, it can be incredibly distressing to discover that your teenager is using drugs or alcohol. It's important to address this issue and take steps to help your child, but it's also crucial to avoid making common mistakes that can exacerbate the situation. In doing so, you can better support your child and help them overcome their substance abuse. It's a difficult and emotional journey, but you don't have to face it alone.

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