Parenting is difficult enough without the responsibility of raising a teen who is struggling with drug or alcohol use. It is imperative for a parent to understand that addiction is a very powerful illness and it needs to be approached the same way as if you found out that your child has diabetes or cancer.
If your teen had a disease, you wouldn’t ostracize him or her. You would be reading books about the illness, you would be going to meetings, you would be consulting with doctors and you would be surfing the Internet to learn how to support her.
By educating yourself on teen addiction, you as a parent will have the necessary information to tackle the problem rather than approach your teen as a failed parent.
If you hold onto negative emotions like despair and rage, you could project these feelings onto the child.
According to Michele NeSmith, a licensed marriage and family therapist with her very own practice, there are five comments a parent should never say to their children who are dealing with teen drug and alcohol addiction.
Try to avoid these potentially damaging statements.
1. How could you do this to me?
They are not doing it to you. They are doing this to themselves.
2. Are you trying to hurt me?
They are not trying to hurt you. They are hurting themselves.
3. Why can’t you stop?
They don’t know why they can’t stop. They don’t understand that they are chemically dependent on the drugs.
4. We taught you better
Never tie your parenting to his or her decision-making. Chemical dependence is not a moral deficit.
5. I don’t know what to do with you anymore, I give up.
The love for your teen should be unconditional, and the feeling of emotional abandonment can be a catalyst for drug use
These phrases are harmful to your child’s recovery because they will make the teen feel responsible for your emotional pain. As a result he or she feels not only his own emotional distress but yours as well. This only makes him or her more prone to relapse because if he or she is feeling anxiety and stress he\she will want to escape from those feelings and self-medicate, which ultimately makes him\her more prone to drug or alcohol use.
So what do you say?
1. You want to make sure that they know that the decisions they make do not have an impact on you as the parent
2. Remind them that their actions only affect their own life
3. Make it clear that you and your teen are separate entities
4. Let him\her know that you are going to be there for him\her and love them unconditionally, no matter what happens
Scott Brand works in the outreach department of Inspirations for Youth, one of the nation’s leading Teen Drug Rehab. He spends his time talking to the teens about their inspirational stories of recovery.