The teenage years are a tumultuous time for both child and parent. In this transitional period, teens tend to rely on parents less and begin to express their desire for independence and the need to be treated as an adult. It’s also the time in which they are most likely to make mistakes when it comes to choosing peer groups, or acting objectively rather than impulsively. In biological terms, young adults have an under-developed pre-frontal cortex which leaves teens prone to making questionable decisions during this period of their development.
These decisions might be rather benign in nature, or they could lead to serious consequences, such as when they decide to use drugs and alcohol. What starts as a way to fit in can easily spiral out of control and leave your teen in a tricky situation that requires professional help.
Here are a few tips for parents dealing with this rather difficult time.
Watch for Warning Behavior
Significant changes in grades or academic behavior, changing peer groups, blaming others for their problems, behavioral changes, drastic changes in appearance and other signs could very well be written off as teens being teens, but sometimes they are signs of more serious problems. It’s not uncommon for these issues to be the side-effects of drug and/or alcohol use.
As a parent, it pays to be mindful of drastic change. While not all situations are the result of alcohol or drug use, it’s not uncommon. Be aware, but non-accusatory. If you suspect something more severe, you can always…
Get A Urine Test
This step should be used as a way to confirm suspicions based on significant personality changes, academic struggles, or active evidence of use rather than an attempt to catch a teen doing something they shouldn’t.
Teens will often look at this as an invasion of privacy or a sign of distrust, and this could lead to resentment. However, if you feel a test is warranted based on strong evidence of use, it’s better to insist on the test than run the risk of continued drug and alcohol abuse.
If the test proves to be positive, it’s time to be pro-active. Attempting to deal with drug and alcohol problems in-house often leads to familial problems without much in the way of attacking the underlying issue of addiction.
If your teen has issues with drugs and alcohol it’s best to start looking for outside support immediately. These sorts of problems are rarely “solved” at home.
Parents SHOULD NOT:
Attempt to “Punish Away” the Problem
Grounding your addicted teen isn’t going to solve the problem. This is a period where parents attempt to latch on to methods of punishment that have worked in the past to treat unwanted behavior. Be warned, they rarely – if ever – work to treat addiction. Grounding, requiring additional supervision, or attempting to control which friend groups or partners are appropriate companions for your teen are all largely ineffective ways to handle addiction.
Write This Off as a Phase
While this very well could be a phase, it’s important that your treat it as a serious problem rather than punishing or attempting to wait it out. Addiction is easier to treat before deeply ingrained habits form, and waiting for your teen to change their addictive behavior is just helping to facilitate the habits that go along with drug and alcohol use.
Deny The Severity of the Issue
Never believe that your teen “just tried it once” or trust them when they tell you “it’s not that big of a deal.” It’s rarely that simple, and these excuses – while sometimes quite convincing – are common forms of manipulation used by addicts in order to facilitate continued use.
If your teen is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, we can help. Contact our staff today to find out how we can help you and your family deal with drug and alcohol use by your teen or young adult.