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Teenage drug addiction: 5 ways to support a teenager in recovery

Parenting throughout the teenage years isn’t easy. If you’re a caregiver of a teen who’s recovering from addiction, it’s another level of hard. Finding the sweet spot between protecting your child from harm and honoring their privacy, space, and growing independence is a challenge on its own. And throwing substance abuse into the mix is an even bigger obstacle to overcome.

If your child or teen is already on the road to recovery, congratulations! It’s a big step in a healthier, brighter future.

But now that your teen is on the right path, how can you support their sobriety?

Let’s dive into five ways you can support your teen in recovery from substance abuse.

5 ways to support a teenager in recovery

Follow your child’s post-treatment recovery plan.

Most rehab centers offer post-treatment recovery plans for teens navigating sobriety.

Learn about your teen’s responsibilities as part of the plan and help them stick to it. Offer to drive them to appointments and encourage them to follow through with each and every promise they’ve made to themselves. If your child has found a healthy outlet in a new sport or hobby, find a way to keep them engaged in the activity.

At the end of the day, it’s your child’s responsibility to stick with the commitments of sobriety—but your support and encouragement go a long way in their recovery, too.

Educate yourself.

Addiction is a disease. And while it’s important to hold your child accountable, it’s also important to acknowledge their struggles and empathize with their pain.

You can start by asking your child about their experience. If your child is willing to share about their feelings, triggers, and obstacles, try your best to listen without judgment. Try to look beyond your parental feelings attached to the experience and see it from their point of view.

If your child isn’t ready to talk, don’t push it. Instead, connect with others in your community who are navigating teenage substance abuse as well. Find resources that break down the science and psychology of addiction, and start there.

There are also many books written for parents and caregivers, including:

Consider therapy for yourself.

While you’re not the one navigating addiction, you do play a vital role in supporting someone who is.

This means in order to care for your child or teen, you must also care for your own physical, mental, and emotional health. Talk therapy can help you learn how to support your child through recovery. But it can also help you deal with your own complex feelings that arise. It’s common for parents and caregiver of addicts to wrestle with feelings of :

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Resentment
  • Worry

Many rehabilitation centers offer therapy for addicts’ loved ones, and most other licensed therapists may be able to help, too.

Audit Your Own Habits

Many caregivers of addicts realize their own habits can negatively impact children in recovery.

If you like to relax and unwind with a couple of beers at the end of the day, consider swapping alcohol consumption for afternoon tea, music, or a warm bath. If you’re a heavy smoker, take steps to quit. If you find yourself indulging in any substance when stressors arise, find a healthier outlet to deal with your emotions.

The idea is to eliminate sources of addiction in your household, no matter how small. The behavior you model will go far in establishing what normal looks like to your child. By doing so, you’re showing your teen addictive substances don’t have to be a staple in everyday life.

Find Something You Enjoy Together

A part of becoming a safe space for your child in recovery is finding new ways to connect.

If you don’t already have shared interests, now is a good time to find some. If you both like animals, volunteer together at a local animal shelter. If you’re both interested in food, take cooking classes together. Learn a new sport, craft, or hobby together—and most importantly, prioritize it.

Addiction has a way of creating family divides. So find what brings you together instead of what drives you apart. The stronger your connection, the safer your teen will feel in confiding in you when times get tough.

About GameChanger

Created in 2018, GameChanger is a student-powered movement with focus on substance misuse prevention among youths. We connect students, educators, and communities with education, training, coaching, and support services to prevent opioid and other drug use before it starts.

Visit our resources to learn more.

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