Drugs and your teenager…..this has the potential to present a number of challenges for both parents and teens. If we look at some of the reasons kids choose to engage in the use of drugs and alcohol we gain some insight on how to respond to that situation in a beneficial way.
There is always a reason for behaviour. We all make choices or act a certain way because of some belief or perception about ourselves. When kids engage in the use of drugs or alcohol, there is a reason and the reason will depend on what is going on in their lives and how they feel about themselves. Firstly there are teens who go through the “partying stage” just for the experience of it and they will step out of it again easily enough. Some kids do it to fit in with their peers, which comes from a mind set that they won’t be accepted for who they are unless they follow what the rest of the crowd is doing, (low self-esteem). Teens will take up drinking and drugs to unwind. They feel overwhelmed by expectations from themselves, parents, school, peers and society, (anxiety). Teens who get labeled with a diagnosis of ADD, ADHD, or even ODD will sometimes use marijuana in lieu of prescription drugs, as prescription drugs can alter them in such a drastic way, they feel the quality of their life has been compromised. As with many adults, some teens use drugs and alcohol to escape and cope with whatever is going on in their lives. This could be the result of an earlier traumatic event or ongoing issues that seem to be beyond their capability to resolve or move through. Some of the above-mentioned reasons may lead to severe substance abuse and addiction if the underlying issues are not cleared and dealt with.
So where do we start in addressing this issue? Well first we have to be able to talk to our teenager. How you approach your teen when they come home high or drunk will be a determining factor in how they will respond back to you. It may not always be an optimum time to engage in conversation if they’re under the influence of a substance; sometimes it’s more beneficial to wait until the next day. As parents who want to support their teens it’s essential that we are able to broach this subject with our son/daughter without judgment of any kind. This means you aren’t judging yourself thinking you’ve failed as a parent, and your not judging your teen as being irresponsible or stupid because of the choices they are making. Your teenager will need to feel that you are coming to them from a place of love and understanding - without judgment. If their behaviour is pushing your buttons and you are feeling anger, sadness, or frustration (to name a few) then there is still something in you that needs to be cleared in order for you to be in a place of neutrality. From there the best you can do is listen to what is going on in their lives, what things are creating anxiety for them, what things are creating low self-esteem and self doubt. Look at how you the parent can empower them by helping them to discover their own potential and see their strengths. Teach them that there is nothing wrong with being different or unique because in their uniqueness they bring their own special gift(s) to the world. Help them to love who they are - just the way they are. It’s a reassurance to our teens when we can sincerely convey to them the beautiful qualities they possess. Our focus should always be on what our teens are doing right, not what they seem to be doing wrong.
We must also keep in mind that our teenagers are going to choose to have certain experiences in order to learn something about themselves. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and support, they are still going to choose a path that we may not agree with. We have to understand that even though they came here to play the role of our child, they are also on their own individual journey. We must be able to allow them to learn - even if the form of that learning seems to be self-destructive. On a soul level, it may be something your teenager agreed to play with and needs to experience in all its apparent harshness. Ultimately, we are not responsible for the choices our children make. We can however, provide them with information about those choices, as well as provide loving nonjudgmental support to assist them in realizing their own perfection….the rest is up to them.