Wake up parents you may be missing the signs of substance abuse
Raising children is full of both joy and challenges. They do not come with an easy-to-read manual. As parents, we love and cherish our innocent babies and watch them change and come into their own as they grow. They are also products of the environment they live in with us and that can be both positive and negative at times. As our children go out into the world and on their own they are presented with many opportunities and possibilities. They meet people and friends that both positively and negatively influence them, and the parents can be the last to know.
What can you do to be proactive about protecting your young adult children from those negative influences? Here are a few ways to stay connected with your kids:
- Keep the lines of communication open. When your children confide in you, do your best to listen and not overreact. Create emotional and physical safety.
- Spend quality time with your children, be curious about their life, who their friends are, and how they’re doing. Interact and engage with their friends.
- Develop interests and activities that you can do together.
- Connect with a consultant, therapist, or school counselor for professional help and guidance if you suspect there may be problems.
- Educate yourself on current drug trends and talk to your children about them.
- Enforcing family boundaries is often very hard for the parents but absolutely necessary for the children. In fact, maintaining boundaries with your children is often harder on the parents. Children are wired for structure and consistent parenting and are far more resilient than we give them credit for today.
- Though you can’t control your kids through fear, parents have more leverage than they realize (cell phones, social media access, finances, car time, social time, etc.), don’t be afraid to use it. Boundary infractions should have consequences and those consequences must be invoked in a boundary infraction occurs. Your child may get angry with you and may need time to work through their emotions.
- You are your child’s parent, not their friend. Children will test your boundaries. Stay firm. A boundary is not worth setting if you do not follow through and it puts you in a very weak parenting position in the future.
- Healthy parenting is supportive and looks most like coaching NOT enabling or controlling. Work to be understanding, and empathic. available, and observant. Over-enmeshment in a child’s life (or theirs in yours) can be just as damaging. Sometimes we must let our children fail at something to get a genuine learning opportunity. Failure is a part of growing. We must learn to fail as much or more as we learn to succeed. Failure can be an extremely positive motivator for healthy choices.
- HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM is the greatest gift you can give your child. You must also have one to be able to teach and role-model this for your children.
How do you know when there is an addiction problem or crisis with your young adult children? Below are signs to be aware of which might let you know there is a problem with substance use or process addiction (a compulsive behavior vs ingesting a substance)
- Has your young adult child’s interests or friends changed without reason? Are they no longer interested in their once-favorite activities?
- Has your young adult child withdrawn from your family and their friends?
- Does your young adult child need an unusual amount of money?
- Have you noticed a change in your child’s friends? Have you noticed that maybe their new friends aren’t the best influence?
- Is your young adult child spending more time alone isolated or on social media?
- Is there a noticeable physical change in your adult child’s appearance and an unusual lack of hygiene?
- Are you noticing new smells either on your young adult child or in their car?
- When you look into your child’s eyes, is there a hollowness, or are their pupils dilated?
- Does your child have exaggerated mood swings/temper tantrums from typical teen behavior?
- Does your child respond to your calls/texts?
- Does your child have unexplained periods of inaccessibility?
- Is your child depressed or anxious?
- Does your child have abnormal sleep and wake patterns?
As parents, it is our duty to raise highly functional and responsible human beings that are positive and contributory members of our society. This is done by teaching children to have healthy self-esteem, boundaries, and a stable support system (emotional and physical safety-which does not mean you condone their behavior). Whether your family has experienced a divorce or your family is still intact, it is imperative that you present a united front when co-parenting. “Splitting” of parents often leads to problems. If you are the parent “giving in” to the child’s demands out of guilt, fear, to be the favored parent, etc. this has lasting damaging consequences and is an issue you may want to address with your own support system. Successful co-parenting takes collaboration, patience, and sometimes a professional to help parents position their children for success. Children need emotionally healthy and stable parents that show love and consistency within a healthy defined family system.
What are your key takeaways for understanding substance abuse behaviors?
- Know when your child is exhibiting risky behaviors and notice if they are at risk.
- Understand that any trauma, even generational trauma, needs to be resolved so as not to place your young adult child at further risk. It does not go away if we ignore it. In fact, it gets worse.
- Be aware of sudden changes in friends, moods, grades, and interests, those can be the first signs that something is off. Know the friend’s parents and contact information.
- Talk to your young adult children about peer pressures, bullying, and their relationships. Role-play how they can manage these pressures. Children need communication tools at the moment.
If you’re seeking treatment for a loved one, our family program and caring staff recognize that addiction doesn’t only affect the person struggling with substance abuse but also affects those around him or her. Healing Springs Ranch, located in Tioga Texas, provides recovery support. Some of the highlights of therapy include core curriculum groups, Psychodrama, Art Therapy, Anger Management, ETT, and a Wellness Program. Residential treatment for adults recovering from substance use, alcohol, and other related mental health issues.