Addiction Resources for Parents – How to Help an Addicted Child

Is Your Child Struggling with Drug Addiction?

If your child is one of the millions of people struggling with drug use, you may feel sad, bewildered, and unclear about what to do next. Because of the potentially catastrophic consequences of drug misuse, caregivers should have an open dialogue with their children about the issue. Read below for some suggestions about how to have a conversation with your child and possible next steps.

Setting Expectations

When talking to a teen about substance use, parents should be ready to clarify expectations and set boundaries with their kids if they see them engaging in risky behaviors like drinking or drug use at a young age. Supervising a child’s day-to-day activities or talking to a teenager involved in substance use disorder can be challenging. If they want to affect their children, parents must also fight off the pressures of their children’s peers. Young people place a high emphasis on the advice of their peers and may view their parents’ viewpoint as unrealistic or out of touch.

Listening to a son or daughter is essential, but so is hearing from others who may have seen warning signs of substance addiction in the adolescent. A child’s friends’ parents, instructors, coaches, and school personnel may be able to spot warning indications that nobody else does. Talking to others does not imply that parents are oblivious to their child’s difficulties; rather, it merely implies that a third party has looked at the issue objectively and can offer information.

Timing of the Conversation

If you want to have a conversation about substance usage with a child or teenager, there is no “right” time. Most likely, the adult and the child will feel uneasy throughout this discussion. It may be the most crucial conversation a parent can have with their child because substance misuse can have far-reaching consequences. Some suggestions on how to start a conversation with a youngster regarding substance usage are as follows.

When Your Efforts Fail

When an adult’s best efforts to help an addicted child fail, they may experience regret, despair, or even anger. Parents in these situations must remember that substance misuse is a sickness that calls for medical attention and that young people may continue substance use without expert help.

Professional Intervention

Some children may need professional intervention to get into therapy if they do not respond to private discussions with family members. An intervention is a meeting between loved ones and the addict, usually facilitated by a professional in substance addiction treatment, where the goal is to persuade the addict to enter rehab. At the same time, the adolescent’s parents and other concerned loved ones can explain the outcomes of their actions, set limits, and talk about their hopes and dreams for the future.

An Objective Perspective Helps

When a professional counselor, therapist, spiritual leader, or intervention specialist is involved in the planning and execution of an intervention, they can bring an objective perspective to the table and provide the support the family needs to follow through on the meeting’s stated aims.

Recognizing the Signs That Your Adult Child May Be an Addict

When it comes to their children’s substance use, parents may suspect but remain unsure. Perhaps this describes the predicament you’re in right now. Alcoholics and addicts are notoriously secretive about their habits. However, it might be useful if you know what to look for.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Consuming alcoholic beverages despite the dangers they pose
  • Intoxicated driving after alcohol consumption
  • Drinking interfering with their ability to handle their duties
  • Having an incident where alcohol was a factor
  • Loss of memory or passing out

Drug Abuse Symptoms

  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Variations in body mass
  • Physical evidence of bruising
  • Mood or attitude changes
  • Feelings of sadness or dread

Abuse of either drugs or alcohol is a major problem that often leads to a full-fledged addiction. Even if a person claims they are not addicted and can stop at any time, they are nevertheless putting their life in danger by engaging in risky behavior. If you believe your teenager is engaging in substance abuse, you should urge them to seek professional assistance.

Early Warning Symptoms of Addiction

In most cases, the symptoms of addiction are even more severe than those of abuse. You may look out for warning signals if you suspect your adult child is an addict. For example:

  • Alternating between different social circles
  • Issues with money because of excessive drinking or drug usage
  • Keeping on using it despite knowing it’s bad for you
  • Constant fatigue or listlessness
  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol taking precedence over everything else in their lives
  • Addiction-related legal issues

If you observe the above signs in your child, they may be addicted.

Abuse is distinct from addiction in several ways, chief among them being the former’s potential victims’ capacity to discontinue substance usage. The body’s dependence on substances is a hallmark of addiction. The prolonged use has changed the user’s brain chemistry and behavior.

Addicts can’t just stop, and their parents need to realize that. Because the body now considers the substance essential, the ability to quit using a substance has dramatically diminished. As soon as it leaves the body, withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings occur. There’s a problem, the system says. Therefore, you should probably get another dose of that drug. It’s important to remember that a child who has become addicted to drugs has little control over their drug use. They need to get into a drug rehab program.

Help for Families With an Addicted Adult Child

If your adult child has an addiction, you should learn as much as you can about how to help them. Below is some information and tips that may be helpful.

Avoid Enabling Behavior

Many parents enable their adult children, and it is easy to engage in this behavior without even being conscious of it. Perhaps you’ve been providing support for them. Enabling behavior may take any of these forms:

  • Offering to babysit the grandchildren so that your adult child can party
  • Giving an adult child money, which they may use to buy drugs or alcohol
  • Contributing to your child’s living expenses by letting them live at home
  • Doing household chores such as grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking for your adult child

You want what’s best for your kid because you’re a parent. At the moment, it may appear like you’re just trying to help when you’re enabling. You expect significant improvement in the addicted behavior as a result. In most cases, it has the opposite effect.

When parents enable their children, they make it more convenient for them to continue using. As a parent, you may benefit from talking to other parents or seeking online information about how others have dealt with similar situations and how you can avoid enabling your adult child. Your adult child’s substance use will probably worsen if these or other enabling behaviors are maintained.

Finding Out More About Addiction

Addictions come in a wide variety, each with its unique characteristics. Addiction also has varying effects on its victims. Learning as much as you can about addiction is one of the most effective steps you can take. It would help if you learned as much as possible about the subject. You can choose from several reliable options.

Selecting a Treatment Facility for a Child or Adolescent

In the past, adolescents who needed substance misuse treatment were treated in the same facilities as adults without accommodations for their age or developmental level. Modern rehab professionals realize that young people require individualized care during their time in rehabilitation and recovery. Some kids need the structure of a round-the-clock residential facility. In contrast, others could do better with less intense programs like outpatient rehab or a partial hospitalization program that allows them to live at home with their parents. It is also important to factor in academic commitments, work duties, and extracurricular activities. 

Advocating for a Recovering Child

The family’s dedication to the child’s recovery is essential whether the youngster attends an inpatient facility or an outpatient program. Addiction is best approached as a family disease, and rehabilitation is most effective when approached as a family process. Parents should actively engage in treatment, education, and support groups to foster a home atmosphere that encourages and supports long-term sobriety. Most rehab programs employ family therapy as part of their program to engage family members in the recovery process.

Parent and Family Member Self-Care

Parents in good mental and physical shape make for better caregivers during the recovery process. For therapy to be effective, it must cater to the emotional needs of both the parents and the children. Parents and guardians should take care of themselves by engaging in good habits, including eating well, frequently exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and learning stress management techniques, in addition to seeking professional therapy. This attention to the caregiver’s needs is not self-indulgence; rather, it is a sort of self-care essential for avoiding feelings of resentment and exhaustion.

The sibling(s) of the rehabilitating child also require therapeutic help and validation of their emotions. Substance-abusing kids often seem to get all the attention, even if it’s mostly unfavorable. It’s possible for the child in rehab to give the impression to the other kids at home that they’re more important to their parents than they are. Siblings of a child in treatment often resort to defiant behavior or drug and alcohol experimentation to compensate for the lack of attention they feel they are receiving. All the children in the home, not just the one who is the primary focus of therapy, must have their needs met.

Supporting Your Family After Rehab

In many respects, the road to recovery only begins after leaving a treatment facility. Addiction is a disease with an ever-present risk of relapse, so even if the family feels more resilient, it is important to be prepared for the worst. Addiction is a chronic disorder that requires lifelong symptom management, so parents should know that relapse isn’t a sign of a child’s lack of willpower or that treatment failed. A kid with a substance use problem needs an ongoing maintenance program to lessen cravings for the substance of abuse and to teach coping skills, just as a child with diabetes needs continual monitoring of nutrition and blood sugar levels.

Therapeutic services and resources for children on the path to recovery and their families after rehab are essential. Family therapy usually starts after the individual in treatment for addiction has made progress in recovery. With help, parents can continue to ensure their children take advantage of the skills they have learned in rehab. 

Getting Help

At White Light Behavioral Health in Columbus, OH, we can empathize with the pain you’re going through due to your child’s addiction. Understanding what to do and what not to do is quite challenging. The last thing you want to do is enable your child, yet you want to be supportive. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions or want to discuss how we might assist you.

Addiction Resources for Parents

Reviewed By:

Dr. Ryan Wakim, M.D.

Dr. Wakim is a board-certified psychiatrist with a passion for and expertise in addiction, mood disorders, trauma-related disorders and the subspecialty of interventional psychiatry. He obtained his medical degree from West Virginia University where he also completed his residency training, finishing as chief resident. Dr. Wakim co-founded and served as the CEO of Transformations leading to a successful merger with Shore Capital in May 2021. He is purpose driven towards improving the standard of and removing stigma related to behavioral healthcare. Dr. Wakim enjoys golf, traveling and time spent with his two dogs, Lulu and Rayna.

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