Being a parent is not easy. Being a parent of a child who struggles with addiction is harder still. Deciding how best to care for them and navigate a treatment plan can feel like a complicated journey. Know that you’re not alone — many resources are available to help you understand your child’s addiction and learn how to support them through it.
Understanding the Nature of Addiction
Use of alcohol, cocaine, tobacco and sedatives by young people is decreasing over time. According to data compiled by Monitoring the Future, usage is lower than at any point since the survey began in 1975.
While these statistics are encouraging, addiction is still a very real problem. Underage drinking and drug use remain a serious health issue, with 7.7 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 reporting drinking alcohol in the last 30 days. A disturbing 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking. Before you can begin to help your child, it’s important to understand what addiction is and why it occurs.
Addiction is a disease caused by the brain’s chemical response to addictive substances, often resulting from a combination of factors like genetic makeup, social influences and psychological conditions. While using these substances in the first place may be a choice, addiction is not. Recovering from addiction, much like any chronic disease, entails continuous care and management in order for the individual to pursue a healthy life.
Signs to Look For
In addition to obvious signals — like unexplained absences of drugs from the medicine cabinet and missing money that can’t be accounted for — the following signs may indicate that your child is struggling with substance abuse:
- Physical: Changes in sleeping or eating habits, tremors or shakes, nausea, excessive hyperactivity and deteriorating personal hygiene can all come up.
- Social: Their friend group may change dramatically. They may begin spending more time away from home and become more secretive.
- Emotional: Sudden emotional changes, moodiness and shifts in personality often occur alongside substance abuse. If you’re struggling to decipher whether it’s a result of normal adolescence or a serious underlying problem, consult a medical professional.
How to Parent an Addict
As a parent, your first instinct is to protect your child from harm. Knowing they’re facing a battle you can’t fight for them can be extremely difficult. However, you have an important role to play in their recovery. Try following these steps:
- Intervene with love: Approach your child by asking open questions and letting them know you’re there for them no matter what.
- Avoid enabling them: Knowing when to say “no” and establishing strict boundaries is an essential part of creating a healthy path for your child.
- Establish realistic goals: Work together to establish timely, measurable, step-by-step goals. Find ways to make their goals a team effort so that they know they’re not alone.
- Choose the right rehab facility: Many facilities specialize in caring for children and teenagers. With some research, you should be able to find one that meets your family’s needs.
How to Help Your Adult Child
What happens when your addicted child is not a child at all but an adult living outside of your home? It’s often harder to spot the warning signs or be in a position to affect their lives and bring them to rehab when they’re not under your care. That said, you should approach your child with the same goal of communication and open listening that you’d use with a younger child.
Offer your help to look for care facilities, treatment programs or support groups. Strive to empower and not enable your child — remember, they’re only going to change their life if they want to.
We’re here to help! Contact Gateway Foundation to learn more about the life-saving addiction treatment we provide.