Witnessing a child suffer with substance abuse is one of the most difficult things a parent can go through. Nearly nine million people under the age of 26 have a substance abuse problem. The availability of drugs and their use is shockingly high. A 2012 survey reported that 44 percent of teens in high school know a student that sells drugs at their school. In 2012, 54 percent of students at private schools said that drugs are in their schools, which is a 30 percent increase from a decade earlier. Reports of drugs in public schools is even higher. This does not even account for kids who abuse substances outside of school or consider children of all ages. The likelihood that parents will need to enroll their kids in a substance abuse program at some point is higher today than ever. Family involvement is one of the most important elements affecting the success of drug treatment.
Selecting the Right Treatment
Parents can give their children the best chance of success and make the process as comfortable as possible by selecting the right treatment program. Not all children respond to the same program. Your child’s specific needs must be considered when deciding how best to help them. There is no such thing as asking too many questions. Talk to medical professionals as well as friends and relatives to become as informed as possible. In the end, you know your child better than anyone else, but the more you know the better you can help your kid.
An initial assessment helps parents discover the best option for kids. Parents can get assistance with assessments and interpreting results from addiction help centers. Treatment programs range by the severity of the drug problem and include outpatient, intensive outpatient, day treatment, residential, inpatient, and medication-assisted treatment programs. Experts say that children and teens usually do not need the more intense treatment options, but an assessment is the only way to make an educated guess as to the ideal place to start with treatment help. Involving children in the decision making process for what type of program to use is empowering and is less likely to make the child feel like they are being published. Parents should show kids the results of their assessment and what type of treatment it recommends. Telling your child that you love him or her and are only interested in getting help for them is crucial. Some things to say and do when beginning the treatment process include:
Tell your kid that you are there to answer any questions he or she has and that you want him or her to come to you when feeling upset or dealing with personal problems.
Encourage your child to express negative feelings of frustration or anger, but parents should focus on positive feelings of love and compassion.
Make sure that your child knows that everything you are doing is for him or her because you want your kid to be healthy and happy.
Most children do better in programs that involve family members in the process. Parents should ask how they can be involved before committing to a program. Family counseling is frequently used for treating kids with drug problems. Support services for the parents and siblings are usually offered too and should be taken advantage of to keep the family unit strong. Parents will be more helpful to their children if they have an outlet for their own feelings surrounding the issues. Parents need to know that a drug problem is not a personal failing of their child and that they should focus on recovery and not their own feelings of guilt.
If a particular program does not offer support, parents should ask for a referral. Healthy relationships among family members is critical for a child in recovery and fostering those relationships is very challenging when other members of the family are not receiving support.
A lack of trust, hostility, and hurt feelings are common among parents and children in situations of drug abuse. Family counseling is the correct place to discuss these emotions and concerns. Parents should be willing to tell their children how their behavior affected them, but within the safety of a session with a professional. Therapists can help families through the painful situation and help them establish healthy communication strategies.
The Importance of Early Intervention
Many parents wait to get their child help. They may hold off when they first suspect a problem because they think that their kids may just be “experimenting” or are afraid to accuse their child of drug use because of repercussions. The longer a parent waits, the deeper children can get with their self-destructive behaviors and the more difficult it is for them to beat the addiction.
Parents should put aside fears of overreacting or feelings of shame attached to having a child hooked on drugs and address the problem immediately with firmness and love. Professional help is critical to a successful intervention and all throughout a treatment program.
Parents’ Role in Recovery
Finishing a formal drug abuse program is not the end of treatment. Parents need to be involved in an after care program as adjusting to life following treatment is difficult for kids and relapse is always a possibility. The goal of treatment for children is to get them completely off drugs. Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is important, but so is a child’s ability to function well in school and society as well as their overall health. Parents should stay vigilant for signs of physical, emotional, or mental issues. Even if a child is drug free, behavioral problems and a poor attitude make them vulnerable for a relapse.
Aftercare includes follow-ups with the professionals who assisted kids through their treatment. Parents should be positive about these experiences and let their kids know how proud they are of them for completing a program and continuing with follow-ups. Parents should be honest when giving assessments of their child’s progress. It does not help kids to lie or withhold information from counselors.
In the case of a relapse, parents should be quick to explain to their kids that a drug problem is a disease like none other and a relapse does not mean that treatment did not work so much as more treatment is necessary. Everyone can recover from a drug abuse issue with help. Kids need to hear this and know that their parents believe they can succeed.
Although the children in substance abuse programs face the most difficult challenge to get clean, parents have a lot of work to do as well. The more informed and supportive parents are, the more successful the children will be in beating their problem and living healthy lives afterward.