Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from substance addiction; many children suffer as well. Are you a parent concerned about your child’s sudden change in behavior? Our guest blogger below offers insight on ways to communicate, help and signs to watch out for with your child.
Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. It’s not limited to adults; many children have a substance addiction. Sometimes, the signs that a child is struggling with substance abuse mimic the symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety, or even the signs of puberty. It can be easy to overlook the symptoms, because it’s very difficult to admit that your child may have a problem. The best step you can take is to get professional help if you notice changes in your child’s behavior for which there isn’t another reason.
Watch for these signs:
- Problems in school, missing classes, a decline in academic performance or a loss of interest in school
- Trouble with the law
- Changes in relationships with friends and family, acting withdrawn or hostile
Your child may also have changes in grooming habits, eating and sleeping. When the patterns change for more than a week, you may need to look at the underlying causes. Grief can mimic the signs of substance abuse. You don’t want to rush to judgment, but you do need to take control of the situation.
3 Ways You Can Help
When someone is struggling with addiction, he or she may become deceitful and react negatively to any suggestions of help. You have to be assertive, but not confrontational. What can parents do?
- Strengthen your relationship with your child. Ask open-ended questions about what’s going on in your child’s life. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a yes or no answer. You want more communication with your child. Ask questions that let him or her express their concerns and struggles. Focus on what’s good and be understanding.
- Create and reinforce guidelines. Setting boundaries with a teenager is difficult when there is no addiction problem, but when you have the added pressure of substance abuse, you will have to be strong. Work with your child to create consistent rules that are enforceable. If a certain behavior occurs, then this will be the response. You may not be able to cover every contingency, but you can certainly establish rules and consequences for the most common issues. This lowers the emotionally-fueled reaction that isn’t productive.
- Encourage positive behaviors. You will need to help your child learn new healthy coping skills and build better relationships through the healing process. You have to be a cheerleader that encourages your child to change. You cannot solve each of the problems created by drug abuse, but you can focus on positive messages.
You can do it.
You can be successful.
You are important in my life.
What can I do to help?
Many substance abusing teens will be reluctant to enter treatment unless compelled by the court system or their family. An intervention is not always the best method to get a child struggling with substance abuse into a program. Instead, you should encourage your child to talk to a professional about the problem to address their concerns and to find the best solution. Take care of yourself as you care your child’s needs. You don’t need to deal with burnout, stress and depression when your child needs you at your best.
Dan Gellman is the Director for High Focus Centers, a provider of outpatient substance abuse and psychiatric treatment programs in New Jersey.
Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.
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