25 Apr Teen Substance Abuse: Action More Productive Than Blame
Is there a tougher job in the world than being a parent? What makes it so stressful and challenging is that no matter how hard you try you can never be sure you are doing the right thing for your kids or giving them precisely what they need. We learn to be good parents largely through trial and error, and by the time we get really skilled at it, our kids might very well be headed out the door ready to start their own lives.
One of the most difficult issues moms and dads must confront is the presence of drugs and alcohol in the social circles that young people inhabit. Experimentation with these substances is unfortunately seen as a rite of passage by many adolescents, and most parents try to prepare their children ahead of time so they will be ready to respond sensibly and appropriately when temptation and peer pressure are pushing them in the wrong direction. But try as they might, parents cannot build impenetrable walls around their kids to protect them from the evil influences of the outside world, and tragically, what begins as cautious flirtation for many young people all too often ends up as full-fledged drug or alcohol addiction.
A 2012 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that 78 percent of teens surveyed had consumed alcohol at some point during the previous 12 months, while 42.5 percent of those aged 13-18 admitted that they had tried an illegal drug at some point in their lives. Because peer group settings tend to encourage overindulgence, any time kids begin messing around with intoxicants, the situation should be considered serious. It is never wise to dismiss such activity as “teenagers being teenagers.” About 15 percent of teens who use alcohol and 16 percent who consume drugs demonstrate characteristics consistent with addiction, showing just how easy it is for experimentation to quickly spiral out of control.
So the threat is serious and parents must treat it as such. But the shocking statistics reveal how difficult it is for moms and dads to stop their kids from trying alcohol and drugs. Even if kids are given the sagest advice, the problem is just too ubiquitous and pervasive to be easily avoided.
Parents, of course, need to monitor their own drug and alcohol habits to make sure they don’t pass on the wrong message to their kids, and they certainly need to have meaningful (but not preachy) discussions with their sons and daughters about the topic. They also need to set limits, encourage responsibility for actions, and to pay attention to where their child is and with whom. But when a child falls victim to addiction, the most important thing his or her mom and dad can do is acknowledge it and deal with it decisively, supportively and attentively – without wasting time and energy blaming themselves or their child. You can’t protect kids from the world entirely but you can help them recover and get their lives back on track when they make mistakes.
The Winning Attitude
If you child has run into trouble with drugs and alcohol, blaming yourself and feeling guilty won’t help the situation. What will help is a proactive and positive attitude, in which you recognize the problem, help your child to recognize it, and move quickly to get the assistance he or she needs.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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