If you have a teen in recovery from a substance addiction, you might have heard that family support is essential. Do you know why? Also, do you know how you can best support your recovering teen? Read on to learn more about why your support and the support of your family is so important to your teen’s health and recovery.
Family Issues Need to be Solved
It might or might not surprise you to know that all families have issues and difficulties, and your family is no exception. People relate to one another in different ways, and not every communication style or habit is going to be healthy and right for every person. Many parents are surprised to find out that what they had been doing before their teenagers’ addiction was exposed might have contributed to it. This can be a shocking and hurtful revelation.
The good news, however, is that family counseling will be a part of your teen’s recovery plan. His or her addiction specialist will encourage you, your teen’s other parent (if applicable), and other close family members such as siblings to participate in sessions where you can all discuss your experiences and how they relate to your teen’s addiction. These sessions can be very emotionally draining, but they are necessary in order for your entire family to get past the hurt and other feelings that were brought to the surface by your teen’s addiction. At the same time, the therapist can help your teen express his or her emotions. While these sessions are hard to go through, they will, in many cases, bring a family closer together and can really help your teen.
Communication Is Key
As you will learn in your family counseling sessions, keeping communication open is going to be the key to supporting your teen well as he or she goes through the recovery process. There might have been a lot of secrets or hidden activities prior to your teen’s diagnosis. You might have stifled your feelings and your teen might have done the same. In fact, he or she might have been using substances to self-medicate a variety of issues for which treatment is needed.
Even if it seems forced or awkward, it is important to communicate regularly with your recovering teen. Setting aside some time each day or every few days to connect and talk will make the process feel more smooth and natural over time.
Further reading: 5 Tips to Improve Communication With Your Teen
Your Teen Needs Boundaries
Although your teenager looks like an adult, it is important to remember that his or her brain is still developing. Also, teens naturally try to spend less time with their parents and more time with their peers. This leads to them being influenced by their peers more than by their families. Without strong and reasonable boundaries, these factors could lead to a relapse.
Setting boundaries for your teen might not be what your teen wants, but it is what he or she needs. Your adolescent will have learned in counseling that they need to make new friends and find new activities to keep themselves occupied so they don’t turn back to the substances that they were abusing. As a parent, it is important for you to step in if your teen doesn’t seem to be doing this. Don’t be afraid to draw lines in the sand and to hold your teen accountable. He or she might not like it, but it is an important part of the trust-rebuilding process.
Provide Logistical Help
Your teen, even if he or she has been independent before recovery treatment, is probably going to need some logistical support from you during recovery. It’s going to be important for your teen to follow a routine, and depending on their previous habits, this might take some time to get down pat. You might need to wake up your teen some mornings for school, for example, even if you would normally not do that, because during the early stages of recovery, staying home alone all day might not be a good option.
You also might need to provide transportation to his or her therapy appointments or support group meetings. Your teen might need a note or a phone call to get out of school early (or to go in late) for these important meetings and appointments. While this type of logistical support won’t last forever, it is important to meet those needs during the early stages of recovery when routines are new and still being developed.
Your Family Needs Support, Too
One consideration to keep in mind is that while your teen needs a lot of support and care right now, so does the rest of your family. It is important to meet your physical and mental health needs and to encourage others in the family to do the same. For example, even though you are stressed and worried about your teen, your other children, if you have them, need to be able to spend time with you. You need to be sure you’re eating well, sleeping enough, and getting exercise each day.
In addition, consider attending a support group meeting for the family members of those struggling with addiction and going through recovery. Your teen’s addiction specialist is a great place to start; he or she should know about which groups are in the area. You can also check with the local hospital or the facilitator of your teen’s support group meetings. In addition to a support group and the family counseling that you might be attending with your teen, don’t hesitate to seek out a private therapist for yourself or for others in the household.
Addiction and the recovery process can take a toll on the entire family. Your teen needs your support now so he or she can continue on the recovery journey. It can be hard to offer the assistance that your teen needs without enabling him or her, so be sure to talk to his or her counselor about what is best in terms of emotional, physical, and logistical support.