There has been a lot of discussion about the necessity of talking to teens about alcohol and drug use, but there’s more to it than just discussion. Parents have to really change the addiction conversation in order to really reach these young people because many of them are highly averse to talking about it openly, particularly with their parents. If you really want to connect with your son or daughter about substance abuse, then learn how to reach out to them in a successful and constructive way so they’ll be more willing to respond and seek addiction recovery, if needed.
How to Successfully Navigate the Addiction Conversation
Parents know that it’s difficult to get their children to talk to them, particularly when those children are teenagers, and especially when they’re talking about something serious. In this case, the addiction conversation can be enough to send kids running, as it’s often an uncomfortable and painful topic. Teens who have fallen into substance abuse are likely loathe to talk about it at all, let alone with their parents or other guardians. It may be because it’s so personal, they don’t know what to say, or they fear criticism and judgment. For whatever reason, they’re not likely to respond well, and so parents need to find new ways to approach the subject.
One of the most important considerations is trust. Do you think your child believes that he or she could come to you with any piece of information? If not, or if you know that you have particularly explosive reactions to much of what they tell you (however justified), it may be that the teen believes the same will happen if they participate in an addiction conversation with you. To remedy this belief, you need to try and establish a relationship of confidence and comfort, keeping yourself as a figure of authority, rather than a friend, but also as a non-judgmental confidant. Otherwise, they’ll turn to siblings or friends before they talk with you. It may be difficult for you to connect with them and they may not respond well at first, but make a big effort to be there for them so that they begin to feel as if they can approach you with issues of substance abuse.
Unfortunately, it may be a little late in the game for some to actually prevent any drug or alcohol use, but it’s never to late to have a conversation and to encourage change. The addiction conversation can be used for whatever position you and your child are in, at any stage, though there may be more or less work to do depending on the severity. Obviously, if the teenager is in some kind of danger as a result of the level of use, then more definitive action needs to be taken, such as professional addiction recovery. Hopefully, you’ll be able to speak with them sooner rather than later and establish the trust to be able to work with them on a healthier lifestyle.
So, how do you begin the addiction conversation in a productive way? Try:
- Be open and honest. Don’t use generalizations, but speak to them on a personal level so they know you’re listening, that you love and care for them, and that you’re interested in helping them.
- Speaking of listening, make sure to actually do it! Don’t steamroll them with a lecture or concerns because it will likely make them uncomfortable and feel as if they don’t have the chance to explain themselves or present their side of the story.
- Encourage a real discussion, avoid questions that could have “yes” or “no” responses, since they won’t drive the conversation. When you pose questions, do so in such a way that allows your teenager to explain beyond one-word answers.
- Try not to be “explosive or violent” in your reactions. If you want them to confide in you, then you have to be calm and open-minded. It may be distressing to hear what they’re going through, but nothing will change or improve if you are reacting with loud and jarring responses.
- Finally, be encouraging beyond the conversation! “Find ways to praise them” so that you balance out a heavy conversation with reminders of the good that your son or daughter has done and will do. These positive reminders will help them to realize all of the good things that they have without alcohol or drugs.
For more information about having the addiction conversation with your teenager, or if you believe that they need professional help with addiction recovery, get in touch with The Bergand Group. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center, and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
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About The Bergand Group:
At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]