Stress in young adults is one of the prevalent themes we hear about in recovery. Stress can often lead to the desire to “make it all go away” – even temporarily – no matter what the long-term implications. This can lead young adults toward a path of drugs, alcohol, or both that has negative effects on both their present situation and their future prospects for a healthy, happy and well-adjusted life as an adult.
What’s not so clearly understood by many is why some young adults in stressful situations manage to find their way through it and come out on the other side unscathed while others turn to substances in order to ease the pain. While many studies have been completed on just this subject, there are many perspectives on why this is the case. Stress in Young Adults can come from a myriad of different sources such as adolescent trauma and abuse (physical, mental or sexual), accidents involving themselves or family members, or bullying. Put simply, all stress isn’t cut from the same cloth but it is an important element of substance abuse that cannot be ignored. If your child or loved one is already using, this stress could have a compounding effect with existing substance that can lead to heavier abuse in the future and while we can’t eliminate stress, we can – as parents or guardians – find better ways to equip young adults to navigate through difficult times.
Here are a few suggestions:
Offer support, but exercise sound reason.
Sometimes it’s necessary to remind your child that the decisions and choices they make are responsible for the situations they find themselves in. At this age, teens and young adults often mistakenly believe it’s merely “bad luck” that led them to where they are currently. Helping your child find solutions without always bailing them out of their current situation is the path to helping avoid future stress, as opposed to just dealing with current stressors.
Point to solutions instead of offering financial assistance.
If your young adult is struggling with addiction, financial assistance is often the worst kind of support you can provide them. Instead, offer to help them find solutions to their problems, such as creating a resume, helping them to search for jobs, or offering a place to live if they desire to move back home. Stress is often circumstantial, and if you merely give in to the temptation to provide money at all times in order to help your child, you may actually be enabling the addiction itself – and the stressors that go along with it – rather than providing the help you had intended.
Remind your child about choices, consequences and the circumstances that got them here.
A stressed out teen or young adult can be difficult to approach when they do not have the tools and life experience to work through their issues but you can often help to eliminate future stressful situations by pointing out how they can approach their decisions in a more positive manner. It’s important to do this in a loving and supportive way rather than by taking an accusatory tone, the mere action of providing support and positive guidance can begin to build a positive example for your troubled family member.
Provide love and support, but be strong when necessary.
While it’s easy to give in to temptation and give your child tough love in order to help them realize they are the cause of their problems, a supportive stance is one that is often more conducive to recovery, minimized familial impact, and decreased stress levels for all involved. Your child needs to feel safe and comfortable enough to come to you, but they should also know that you aren’t merely a solution to the problem. It’s important to be firm, but supportive. You’re attempting to help, but not be the solution to all of their problems.
Setting firm boundaries, as well as providing unconditional love and support can often minimize the damage to familial relationships that is common amongst addicts and their loved ones. This, in turn, helps to reduce stress as well as the feelings of solitude that accompany addition and further increase stress levels.
Stop believing that you can rescue your child from all of their problems.
As a parent, it’s your desire to be the one that can fix any problems your children brings. When dealing with a teen or young adult who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction it is important to understand that sometimes the problem is much larger than the solution that you could have provided for them.
Seek help early on.
Rather than try to be the rock that can shoulder the stress and heartache that comes with dealing with a loved one’s addiction, seek professional help from experts that have years of experience in dealing with substance abuse and recovery. Reducing stress without treating the compounding effects of that substances have on it is a futile endeavor. Seek help.