Since July is Purposeful Parenting Month, we wanted to share our thoughts on how parents can build strong, positive and healthy relationships and communication with their children without inhibiting their independence. Enterhealth supports Purposeful Parenting Month and its mission on how to talk with teenagers about using alcohol and other drugs, physical and behavioral signs to look for and other difficult questions parents commonly have on this topic.
“Nearly half of all young people ages 12 to 20 in the U.S. have consumed alcohol,” said Enterhealth Chief Medical Strategist Dr. Harold Urschel, III. “Research suggests that positive parenting, including regular communication at an early age, can make it easier for children to talk with their parents as they become older and that they are more likely to open up about issues they’re facing such as peer pressure when they feel like they’re understood.”
At Enterhealth, we recommend that parents do the following:
- The most important thing that parents can do is to talk to their children about drinking and other drugs frequently and regularly. It is best to talk with them in an informative, non-judgmental way using questions about their current exposure, if any, to alcohol and drugs from their friends.
- Public media can be a great resource for current events about alcohol and drugs. Talking about celebrities or sports figures that have addiction issues is a way for parents to bridge the conversation with their teens who may be most willing to talk about those people more avidly. This then allows the parents to shift the discussion to their teen’s ideas and attitudes towards the topic.
- Look for signs and symptoms that your child is using alcohol or other drugs. Some of the symptoms include red eyes, flushed cheeks or face, mood changes or emotional instability, lack of care for their appearance; secretive phone calls or new, unknown friends; and unusually clumsy, lack of coordination and balance.
- If you think there may be a problem, there probably is one. Many parents reaction is to assume that their child is not using alcohol or other drugs and avoid the issue. If the thought even crosses a parent’s mind that there may be something going on, then it is essential that they take active steps and measures to address their concern.
- If a drinking or drug problem with a son or daughter is suspected, parents should activate all strategies to try to verify if there is use of these substances. Parents should not feel uncomfortable about using techniques to find out if there is drug or alcohol use – looking for evidence is well within their right.
- Parents unknowingly can often enable their teenager’s drinking or drug use because it is so terrifying to acknowledge that their loved one is abusing substances. A common example of parents enabling is continuing to give their son or daughter money for school, books or gas money for the car, knowing their child might continue to use it on alcohol or drugs.
- Seek professional help at the first sign or symptom that their child is abusing alcohol or drugs. This will send a very clear message to the son or daughter that the parents are taking this very seriously and that they care very much about them.
- Raise the issue of potential substance use at your child’s school to help understand if there have been any behavior changes observed by others. If the parent talks to the school counselor or the student’s advisor about their concerns they will likely get much more data about their child’s attendance and any change in homework and academic performance.
- Many times drug and alcohol use are underlying factors of a behavioral health problem. Parents should not hesitate to seek help because it can mitigate other issues such as experimenting with other drugs or health problems as a result of use and improve the chances of a positive outcome.
- Whether it is a child or an adult dealing with alcohol or other drug addiction, when confronted with substance use they will blame everyone else within their entire system – parents, children, work, church, a best friend, etc. Parents should take the blame and let them know that it doesn’t matter who is to blame and that the only thing that matters is to get them treated.
- A substance abuser or addict will frequently use anger to scare away the people who are trying to help them and to shut down the concern and questions about whether there is a problem or not. If a child won’t answer the questions, take them to a professional, get an interventionist or ask another family member, friend or someone they respect to come in to help.
The bottom line here is communication – clear, open and honest. Statistics show that kids who talk to their parents about drugs and alcohol (early and often) are 50% less likely to use them compared to kids that don’t. As parents, it is important that we look for “teachable moments” to have the conversation. Whether it is based on a news story, movie or friend, use these opportunities to educate your kids on the dangers and how it can impact their life. While these conversations are never easy, they will be beneficial to you and your family for years to come!
To learn more about Enterhealth’s Residential or Outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, call 1.800.388.4601 or contact us using this form to talk to your trusted advisor, today!