Growing up is particularly challenging during the teenage years.
Teenagers face a tremendous amount of internal and external stress from a variety of sources, including hormonal changes, social expectations, and bullying. On top of this, an estimated 8 million children live with at least one parent addicted to drugs or alcohol.
This makes life even more challenging for teens.
Today, I have a few addiction recovery tips for parents with teenagers that may help you start you start, or continue, your journey to addiction recovery for both you and your teen.
Addiction Recovery Tips for Parents with Teenagers
Recovery can mean something different for each former addict.
One person may just be entering rehabilitation while another has been sober for ten years. No matter where you are in your journey, if you have teenagers, they need to be a part of the healing process. While it was not your intention, your teen has been affected by your addiction.
There are tips you can use to help your teen recover also. Learning how to listen to your teen and allow them to be heard, helping them understand their feelings, sticking with your recovery plan and seeking help are just a few of these tips.
1. demonstrate a healthy lifestyle
If you struggle with a substance abuse problem, it is important that you take the steps toward self-improvement.
You can do this by starting, or continuing, your addiction recovery journey.
If you are not sure where to start, consider seeking help from a therapist with addiction counseling training and experience. A professional will provide you with the warmth you need to move forward with confidence. In addition, you will be provided insightful guidance, resources, and tools you can take on your journey as you move forward.
2. Listen to Your Teen
As busy parents, it is not unusual to be doing two tasks at once, listening to your teen and chores. Or working on the computer while your teen is asking a question. It is natural to try and multi-task. However, your teen recognizes you are not fully engaged in the conversation with them.
This reduces the chances your teen will feel comfortable telling you how they really feel, how your addiction and recovery are affecting them.
Listening to your teenager has many benefits, for you in your recovery, and for your teen. Allowing your teen to talk is one thing. Truly hearing and understanding their feedback is something far greater.
Good listening involves you focusing on nothing else but your teen’s words. Give them feedback as they talk to let them know you are listening. Be able to handle negative feedback. Remember, they are hurt. Allow them to be hurt.
3. Recognize and Respect Your Teen's Feelings
Just as you need to allow your teen to speak and be heard, you also need to recognize their feelings. Even if you do not agree with their feelings, or become hurt by their feelings towards you, it is important to allow them to feel what they feel.
They did not ask for you to become an addict and they do not know how to respond to your recovery. It is something you will need to figure out together. Recovery may be new to you also.
Helping your teen understand their feelings will help them express the correct emotions and behaviors. It is easy for teens to find ways to express their true feelings with a negative behavior. For instance, some teens who feel hurt may react by breaking objects in the house. This is because they do not know how to properly express anger.
Allowing them to feel does not mean allowing them to abuse you or themselves. It simply means you are recognizing their feelings and helping them cope with those feelings in a healthy manner.
4. Prove You Have Changed
You have told your teen many times that you are changing. They believed you and sometimes, you have not been able to keep your word. It should not be surprising that your teen does not completely believe you this time.
They know all the warning signs and may be waiting to see how long you last in recovery.
This is your opportunity to prove to them you have changed for good. When you say you will be there, follow through. When you can not be there for them, tell them just that.
Show them your sobriety is a priority. Be honest when you are struggling and when you are having good days. Avoid the people, places and things that are triggers. Do not minimize your struggles. Stay engaged in hobbies and activities, seek support as an individual and seek help as a family.
5. Seek Help as a Family
Seeking the help of a family therapist with your teenager during your recovery takes some of the stress off you and puts it on the counselor. A trained mental health professional can often explain the recovery process to your teen and family much better than you can.
You may have questions of your own about the recovery process. Plus, your teen may be more willing to listen to a professional rather than their parent who has let them down in the past.
A therapist can also teach you and your teen how to cope with emotions, how to react to situations, how to avoid triggers and how to offer support to one another. They can teach you specific steps to take when you find your relationship struggling more than usual.
Teens may find it hard to understand the disease of addiction. A therapist can explain why it is easy for some people to stop using while others become addicted. Furthermore, a good counselor can educate both you and your teen on how to avoid co-dependency issues and establish healthy relationship goals.
6. Help Break the Cycle
Studies show that teens who are raised by parents with addictions are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs themselves. Even those teens that swear they will never be like their addicted parent, sometimes fall into those same patterns.
Prevention is the best way to help your teen break the cycle of addiction. Teaching your teen vital coping skills early in life will give them the best chance of avoiding substance abuse. They need to know how to trust others and that not everyone in their life will hurt them.
They need to know how to seek out positive supports, other sober people, who can influence them in a safe way. Teens need to know how to ask for help. They need to know it is okay to ask for help, especially after making a poor decision.
Teens need to be taught self-confidence, so they can say no to peer pressure. They need to see and believe they can achieve realistic goals, that they are valuable, and they do have control over how they turn out in life.
Gaining the right tools can help you and your teen be successful.