Implementing Communication at Home Before Seeking Treatment for Teen Substance Use

Implementing Communication at Home Before Seeking Treatment for Teen Substance Use

Your teen might decide to smoke, drink or dabble in drugs. You feel helpless and aren’t sure of the next steps to take. You wonder if you should just stand by and say nothing in hopes that your son or daughter is just going through a phase that he or she will outgrow. Maybe you think that you should talk to him or her about what is going on. You might also consider the possibility of calling a behavioral treatment center and looking into an intervention. You are willing to try nearly any option so that your child receives the help that they need. However, before you resort to seeking professional counseling, read on for some tips you can try at home first.

Statistics Regarding Teen Substance Use

The following statistics apply to 12th grade students across the nation:

  • Almost 50 percent have abused some type of drug.
  • More than 40 percent have used marijuana.
  • Approximately 7 percent smoke every day.
  • Nearly one in four admit binge drinking and
  • Almost 9 percent have tried hallucinogens, such as LSD.

In addition, prescription drug use is rising, claiming the lives of more teens than heroin and cocaine combined. Nearly two-thirds of teens obtain prescription pain killers from family or friends.

Despite popular belief, marijuana use can result in addiction. An estimated 17 percent develop a dependency on the drug if they begin using as teens.Furthermore, the drug negatively impacts attention span, school grades, memory, motivation, learning and more. Continued use leads to a permanent decrease in IQ of as much as 8 points.

Communication Tips

You have more influence into your kids’ lives than you might think — just by talking to them about cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, you can impact their behavior and help them make the right decision against using these substances.

The younger that your child is when you have these conversations with him or her, the more likely that he or she will internalize your advice and take it to heart. Build a strong foundation of communication with your child from his or her earliest years. You can keep the lines of communication open by doing the following:

  • Have daily conversations with your kids. Talk about what is happening with you and ask about their day as well.
  • Ask open-ended questions that need a longer response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
  • Give them choices and ask for their input into some decisions, such as what snack they would like to eat or what movie they would like to see. When they are younger, give them specific choices, gradually allowing more freedom as they mature.
  • Respect your child’s thoughts and opinions.
  • Rephrase his or her comments to be sure that you understand what he or she is saying. Listen without judgement. Keep calm.
  • Talk about smoking, drinking and using drugs with children as young as third or fourth grade, depending on the young person. Some children might need even earlier discussions about the topic.
  • Spend time with your child.
  • Support your child’s involvement in healthy activities, such as sports, music, other arts, after school activities, church groups and scouting.
  • Encourage his or her gifts or talents. Praise them for a job well done, even when his or her team loses.
  • Direct them when they are upset and help them to appropriately channel anger and emotions. Let them know that you will support them. Give them space to process their feelings.
  • Model appropriate behavior, including your use of alcohol. Don’t smoke or use drugs.
  • Set rules, boundaries and consequences. Enforce these consistently so that your child understands the expectations. Children then learn to become responsible for their decisions and actions.
  • Help your children manage problems by asking what is wrong when they seem upset and letting them know you are there to help.
  • Verbally praise your child for being responsible and following the rules.
  • Use television, movies, songs, media and similar topics to spark conversations. Ask them their opinions on what they watched/heard. You can start this in grade school with younger children.
  • As they grow older, talk to them about current events.

Be sure to address the physical, social, financial and legal consequences for using drugs. Talk about the actual dangers of use to them. Address how alcohol and drug use affects driving. For example, a conviction for drinking and driving can cost $10,000. The driver could be in an accident and hurt someone else. Convictions can also stay on their record, affecting their ability to attend college or obtain work in some fields.

Teaching Teens to Develop Goals

When teens develop their own short- and long-term goals, they will focus on the future and on what interests them. This will help deter them from alcohol and drug use as these will detract from their long-term goals. This moves their focus off what they should not do and onto what they should do instead. They will understand that substance abuse — and even experimentation — can derail their future plans.

This persuasive approach works well instead of condemning or pointing fingers. Ask your teen why he or she would want to do drugs. Then, flip the conversation and ask what would stop him or her from using. Hopefully, those future goals are at or near the top of the list.

When to Call for Outside Help

Sometimes, your best efforts at communication and motivation toward goal-setting fail. In these cases, you should immediately call emergency personnel as your child’s life might be in serious danger:

  • Engaging in illegal behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Continued rage as opposed to situational anger that dissolves quickly
  • Negative peer associations, such as gang affiliation or activity
  • Running away
  • Threats or acts of violence toward themselves or others
  • Failing grades
  • Drastic changes in eating habits
  • Isolation and withdrawal and
  • Similar negative behaviors.

By keeping the doors of communication open, you can stop some problems before they even start. Implement some of these tips when talking with your children to see if you can turn their behavior around before you seek additional treatment.

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