8 Ways You Can Help Your Teen Avoid Substance Abuse Problems

By Nikki Harper

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

Substance addiction, whether it’s to drugs or alcohol, ruins lives – and the earlier it begins, the greater the chances of what begins as dabbling or experimenting becoming a harmful addiction. The latest statistics show that 21% of high school students in the USA have sold, been offered or been given drugs, on school property, in the year to December 2019. The good news is that overall, drug use among high schoolers appears to be falling slightly, but any parent will be familiar with the concern over how to potentially handle a teen’s interest in drugs.

In truth, of course, any teen can develop a substance abuse problem – from any kind of background, any kind of home, any part of the world. Parents are not to blame for the choices their teens make, but there are several ways you can adjust your parenting to help make it less likely that your teen will prove vulnerable to addiction. .

1 – Address Your Child’s Mental Health Problems

Statistics show that a high proportion of teenagers have a mental health condition of one kind of or another, ranging from depression and anxiety to ADHD or eating disorders. It’s a tough world for teenagers out there right now, and as their brains grow and develop, it’s not surprising that mental health problems can crop up. A big mistake parents make, however, is not seeking help for their teen’s mental health, just assuming that the child will grow out of it. They might, or they might not, but pre-existing mental health problems are a big risk factor in addiction.

2 – Be Honest About Your Own Drug Use

The conversation may be awkward, but the worst thing you can do is to lie. If you took drugs or drank too much in your youth, tell the truth if your teen challenges you on this. Explain why you regret the choices you made, and why with hindsight you would not want them to make the same mistakes. Equally, if you do not regret your choices, but you understand that you were lucky to have not developed an addiction, explain that too. There is no evidence to show that admitting to your own past mistakes will make your child any more likely to experiment; in fact, it will probably make it less likely, as you will have de-glamorized the appeal. Who wants to do what Mom or Dad did?

3 – Don’t Be Too Strict or Judgemental

It can be difficult to maintain an open, honest, loving relationship with a difficult teen, but your goal should be to parent so that your child feels able and willing to come to you at any time when they are in difficulty. If they think you’re going to over-react, lay down the law or turn psycho on them, guess what? They’re going to hide the problem until it’s too late.

4 – Notice Changes in Your Teen’s Behavior

You know your teen best, and you’re in the best position to spot behavioral changes. If your child suddenly loses interest in their school work, or switches their set of friends, or becomes more sociable, or less, or more hyperactive, or more sleepy – note the change, and tactfully ask about it. Often these behavioral changes are nothing to worry about and not related to addiction – but they could be.

5 – Don’t Think Your Teen is Too Intelligent to Take Drugs

If your teen is a good student and an all round good kid, it’s tempting to think that your job is done, and that they’ve got the wisdom, intelligence and maturity to avoid drugs and alcohol. Not so. The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for judgement decisions – is not fully mature until the early to mid twenties. Your good kid can still make bad calls.

6 – Set Boundaries and Expectations

If you’re more of a friend to your teen than a parent, then they don’t know where the boundaries and limits are. Drugs and alcohol should have been discussed, and they should know your rules and your stance on this issue – but equally importantly, they should understand the boundaries and expectations in other area of life, such as school work, friends, staying out late, swearing and anything else which matters in your home. Knowing these expectations and limits across the board will help to keep your teen on the rails.

7 – Don’t Think Experimentation is Not An Issue

It’s true that a high proportion of teens do experiment with alcohol and/or drugs at some point, and it’s also true that for the huge majority, this does no harm; most teens do not go on to become addicts. However, addiction isn’t the only problem which can arise from drugs and alcohol – think car accidents, for example, or law breaking. Help your teens understand how to say no and mean no, so that they can stay away from experimentation which could end messily. It will also help to empower them to stand their ground in other situations.

8 – If the Worst Happens – Get Help Immediately

If the worst happens and you discover that your teen does have a drug or alcohol problem, do not put off getting help. You may think that you can deal with it at home, or that it’s not so serious and won’t get any worse – wrong. Early intervention is a key factor in successfully resolving teen substance abuse problems, so seek professional help at the earliest possible opportunity.

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About the author:

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and editor for Wake Up World. She writes about divination, astrology, mediumship and spirituality at Questionology: Astrology and Divination For the Modern World where you can also find out more about her work as a freelance astrologer and her mind-body-spirit writing and editing services. Nikki also runs a spiritualist centre in North Lincs, UK, hosting weekly mediumship demonstrations and a wide range of spiritual development courses and workshops.

Say hi at Questionology.co.uk or on Facebook.