How Can You Encourage Your Child to Get Help for Their Addiction?

What happens after finding out that your teenager has substance addiction? Most parents experience shock, disappointment, and even betrayal. The news of addiction tends to bring family members on an emotional roller coaster ride, which often disables parents from speaking and acting rationally. Confrontations tend to follow, adding more conflicts to the already strained family relationship.

Some parents would want their teen to get treatment immediately. They want to see willingness in the child for getting help. But how should they convince a reluctant teenager who is still in denial about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol? Sometimes parents need more patience and techniques to communicate with their child.

How to Navigate Conversations for Treatment

Once strong emotions settle, parents should continue to talk with their children about the importance of sobriety through treatment. For a substantive breakthrough to happen, there needs to be a lot of preparatory communication. Knowing that there are deeper causes behind a young person’s substance addiction, parents should try to find out what they are.

Instead of demanding tasks and dominating conversations about your child’s life choices, maybe it is time to ask questions. Find out what has been causing emotional pain in their life. Maybe this involves your own relationship with the child. Once your child opens up about their inner world, do not steer away from discussing these challenging topics.

Having heartfelt conversations is a way of building trust. Parents need to listen deeply. They need to empathize with the child on what they are afraid of. Parents can use open-ended questions, which allow a young person to open up. It is also wise to wait for the right timing. It usually does not work if the teenager is under the influence of drugs or physically tired.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Parents need to create incentives when talking with their teens about treatment. This works better than just listing the harmful effects or threatening them with negative consequences. Incentives help restore a child’s own agency. In the meantime, though, parents need to be wise on how to use such leverages without creating codependency.

Codependency or enabling behaviors in the home need to be identified and reduced to a minimum. For example, parents should monitor more closely how their teen children spend money, and refuse to support their over-expenses. They should also avoid telling lies or hiding the problem of addiction for the sake of “protecting” the child, especially when the teenager can hear these lies. Doing this only creates more codependency and resistance in the child for positive change. Recognizing the problem is much more empowering than trying to cover it up.

Parents also tend to swing between two extremes: denialism and blaming themselves. The former is a kind of neglect that can delay your child from getting treatment. The second does not motivate you towards supporting your child, either. Addiction is a chronic disease, which is beyond one person’s willpower. Specialized treatment is what your child needs.

What to Consider When Choosing a Treatment Program

Parents should take a science-based and rational approach. One option is to seek help from a professional interventionist who works with young people, using a family-based approach. Getting educated is always the first step to becoming recovery-supportive. Parents should also be prepared for a long-term journey because recovery is not a sprint, but a marathon. They need to be motivated positively to support their children on this path.

When choosing a treatment program, there are many factors to consider. Some residential programs directed at teens now offer tutoring or continuing education so that young people’s academic studies are not interrupted. Peer group support or group therapy is also conducive to teens who need strong emotional and social support during the process.

Parents also need to consider co-occurring mental health problems their children display. These include depression, compulsion, anxiety, or ADHD. Youths with these conditions might need a strong component of mental health care. Young people who have experienced trauma in issues related to sexual assault, sexuality, or teen pregnancy might need gender-specific programs to recover without the social distractions of dealing with the opposite sex.  

How to Support a Young Person After Sobriety

Parental support is needed after a young person finishes treatment and returns to normal life. During this state of early sobriety, the risk of relapse is still high and there are many triggers around. Parents should prepare the home environment to be not just substance-free, but also stress-free. This requires parents to be able to identify potential triggers and stressors.

Family relationships also need to be improved to avoid relational stress at home. Open communication and healthy boundaries are still the keys to navigating this home recovery phase. Parents can also consider joining their own support group so they can best function as the main caregivers for a young person in recovery. Professional interventionists can help them set a personalized relapse prevention plan. However, even if relapses happen, parents should always resort to the foundation of compassion and empathy towards the child because it is such support that makes recovery possible. 

Parents may go into anger and frustration mode when finding out about their teenagers' substance use or addiction problem. However, confrontational communication can be counter-productive. What your child needs is compassionate support and effective guidance towards self-control and recovery. As parents, your best option is to work with an experienced interventionist who knows how to talk with young people. Early intervention is key, so parents should act now. At South Florida Intervention, our professionally-trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults complete treatment and achieve sobriety. They know how to work with young people and their families. You need a strong recovery community to support your role as an involved parent at this critical stage of your child's life. South Florida Intervention has your back. We offer a range of services, from recovery coaching and parent coaching to sober escorts and case management. We are here to help. Call us today at (202) 390-2273 to learn more.