If your teen has struggled with substance abuse or addiction, it’s natural that you are overwhelmed and maybe a bit unsure as to how you can show support for him or her during the recovery process. Your teen will have a team of addiction specialists, counselors, and medical doctors helping them, but as his or her parent, you are uniquely positioned to give your child the support they need on a daily basis. Read on to find out why your support are important and how to best be there for your child during his or her recovery from addiction.
Why It Is Important to Show Support
Many parents are shocked when they discover that their teenager has been using or abusing substances. While the behavior might be surprising, they often can look back and see that communication levels have dropped and that there has been strife in the home. Sometimes, these issues come on so gradually that they are only recognizable in hindsight.
Chances are good that your teenager has been struggling for some time even before turning to drugs or alcohol. Although they might not show it, teenagers do still need their parents. Your approval and support is very important to them.
By getting to the root of the issues that your teen is going through, you’ll be able to improve communication in your family and also show your teen that you are in their corner rooting for their success as they recover from their addiction.
What to Expect During the Recovery Process
During treatment for addiction, your teen might spend some time at an inpatient recovery center. At the center, they will go to frequent counseling sessions, group therapy sessions, and support group sessions. Once your teen comes home, he or she will still have to attend various counseling sessions. Providing a ride, if possible, will ensure that they make it to their appointments and feel supported by you.
As your teen continues to recover, it’s natural for you to worry and for your teen to feel uncertain about the choices that he or she is making. They might feel anxiety about various social situations and about the necessity for them to make new friends. They might sometimes resist going to their appointments. It is important for you to communicate with your teen and to listen to their concerns. Make time each day to spend time with your teenager. Even a few minutes of talking before bed or during dinner can help and will show support towards your teen.
Encouraging Your Teen
Your adolescent will need to find new social outlets and make new friends in most cases. If he or she continues to spend time with the same people who used substances right alongside them, it is likely that they will relapse. Instead, it is important that they find new hobbies and ways to occupy their time.
Encourage your teenager to look for new activities that they will enjoy. Joining a school sport is ideal because not only will it keep them busy with a healthy physical activity but it will also expose them to student-athletes, who tend to avoid drugs so they don’t get disqualified at events or get in trouble with their coaches. Other options might include something like debate club, the drama club, or a community service club. Outside of school, your teen might be interested in volunteering, getting involved with teen activities at a community center or the public library, or joining a recreational sports league.
Whether or not you had an open and trusting relationship with your teen before, that trust has likely taken a big hit. You might feel like you cannot depend on your teen to tell the truth about where they are or who they are with. In response to these feelings, it’s natural for some parents to try to micromanage their teens and not let them out of their sight. Of course, your teenager will not appreciate that and will likely push back. It can set the stage for arguments and even a relapse when your teen does get out of the house without you watching.
It is important to begin building or rebuilding trust to help your teen regain some of the autonomy he or she lost during treatment out of necessity. Begin by letting your teen know that you will be checking up on them for the time being, but don’t stop them from going out with approved friends to do approved activities. You might ask your teen to text you each hour or you might talk to them about installing a GPS app on their phone for now. As you rebuild trust, begin letting go a bit. It’s important to strike a balance between watching your teenager and letting them make choices as you must still show support for your teen. It is also important to know the signs of a relapse and to seek help promptly if you believe your teen is relapsing.
Taking Care of Your Own Needs
You cannot properly show support for your teen if you are neglecting your own physical, mental, and emotional needs. During this difficult time, it’s common for parents to put their own needs and wants aside to be there for their adolescents. While this is natural and admirable, at some point, you are going to need to meet your own needs, too.
Consider joining a support group for the parents and family members of recovering addicts. Talk to your child’s addiction specialist or counselor for some recommendations and a referral. Also, don’t be afraid to seek private counseling for yourself. You are going through a rough situation and you need to take care of your mental health. Finally, be sure to eat well, exercise daily, and get enough sleep. All of these self-care actions will enable you to be physically and emotionally stronger for your recovering teen.
Stay in touch with your teenager’s addiction recovery team so you can understand what to expect as he or she goes through the recovery process. Know that there will be ups and downs and also that you will be able to show support for your teen as they learn to manage them.