The realization that your child may be addicted to drugs or alcohol is a frightening prospect. As parents, we question how we can help a son or daughter overcome addiction. At first, many of us may be in denial about what is happening. As the truth becomes impossible to deny, we may find ourselves feeling guilty. Imagining that we have failed as parents somehow, otherwise how else could this have happened? These feelings are normal and common. It is important to recognize that they are not helpful. Once you are aware of denial or placing blame on yourself, you must work to move beyond these feelings if you want to be helpful towards your child’s recovery.
Parents can become oblivious or dismiss a son or daughter vaping, drinking alcohol, or even smoking marijuana. We might these as a form of experimentation, but unfortunately, 90% of underage drinking is binge drinking. Marijuana use also comes with repercussions and can lead to experimentation with harder drugs. These forms of social use can have long-term, negative effects to the developing brain as well. Parental concerns about illegal drug and alcohol abuse are justified. Children spend many hours a day unsupervised and are subject to things that their caregivers cannot control.
What can help prevent your child from becoming addicted?
- Establish an open and honest relationship. Be a safe place they can speak without judgment.
- Educate them about the negative effects to mental and physical health and safety.
- Set boundaries and consequences for poor choices they make.
- Discuss any history of addiction in your family and explain how this increases risk.
- Explain to them that drug and alcohol use can damage the developing brain.
Signs and Symptoms
Children have free will so sometimes all the talking in the world is not enough to prevent experimentation. There are signs and symptoms you can look for to determine if drug or alcohol abuse may be occurring. (1)
Is your son or daughter:
- Unusually hostile or angry?
- Especially secretive or frequently caught lying?
- Spending time with new friends they are secretive about?
- Frequently late or absent from school or work?
- Excessively sleepy (nodding out) or unnaturally energetic and keeping odd hours.
Smartphones and digital devices are the youth’s primary form of communication. Teens can be very secretive and refuse to allow you access to the phone. You want to respect their right to privacy but remain aware of unusual behavior. Pay attention to their social media posts. Look for suspicious photos or unusual posts that hint at drug use. Most of all though, utilize your lines of communication. Do not be afraid to calmly ask your child directly if they are drinking or using drugs. Let them feel safe in answering you honestly. Their response could make all the difference. (2)
What to do if you discover your child is using alcohol or drugs
- Remain calm
- Remind your son or daughter how much they are loved
- Make sure you are not alone
- Develop a treatment plan in place and be prepared to implement it
- Consider intervention if your child is unwilling to accept help
Understanding goes a long way here. The last thing you want to do is make your child feel like they cannot be honest with you. Recognizing that your young adult child needs help for their substance use can seem overwhelming. Luckily, you do not have to navigate this alone. There are support systems available. You are welcome to call us for guidance in forming a plan. (3)