According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the summer months are when the highest proportion of teenagers try alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana for the first time. This often occurs because teenagers have more unstructured free time and less adult supervision. While many teenagers simply experiment, others begin to actively use or abuse alcohol and drugs.
As a result, when school starts they quickly begin to struggle with the structure and expectations of school. In fact, a drop in school performance is one of the signs that a teenager may be struggling with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, many parents ignore the signs of drug usage, until the problem has escalated to the point where the legal system gets involved. In fact, the criminal justice system accounts for over 50% of the referrals to treatment for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17. Here are 5 steps that parents can take to help a teenager that is At-Risk.
Don’t Slip Into Denial
As parents, we want to trust our kids and give them the benefit of the doubt. If fact, part of parenting is giving kids the opportunity to make their own choices and experience the consequences of those choices. Drug and alcohol abuse, however, requires a different response. In order to effectively parent kids that have begun to experiment with drugs and alcohol, it is important to be honest with yourself and those around you about the extent of the usage. Drug use doesn’t diminish when you ignore it, it only increases.
The longer that drug use continues the more ingrained some of the behavior becomes and the more a teenager’s thinking evolves to accommodate the alcohol and drug usage. Early intervention can help prevent addiction from occurring.
Abstinence is important for the physical and mental well-being of teenagers. Don’t tolerate the use of drugs and alcohol either at home or outside of the home. Expect sobriety and kids will rise to your expectations.
Keep Teenagers Involved
The more unstructured free time that kids have, the more time they have to use alcohol and drugs. Be involved in their life and keep them involved in activities that are productive.
Trust Your Instincts
As a parent, it is important to trust your instincts. Most parents can sense when something is not right with their kids, even when their kids are denying it. Don’t be afraid to investigate to see if the internal warning bells are accurate. A good rule of thumb with teenagers is “trust but verify.”
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.