If you have a suspicion that your child is abusing drugs or drinking alcohol, it can be a frightening feeling. But the most important thing you can do now is to confront the situation before it’s too late. However, before you do that, it’s important to prepare.
You should know that your child may not be truthful about their problem. Backing down in the face of their dishonesty can make you feel helpless and even delay getting help for your child. Consequently, it’s best to be ready to hear the truth and help your child recover.
Addiction is known as a family disease, and we believe that to be true. That’s why, at Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery, our rehab facility in Nampa, Idaho offers behavioral health resources and treatment services to help parents of an addict help their children and other family members recover.
Here is a list of tips for parents of a child with an addiction. By using this guide, you can provide the stability and understanding necessary to help in their treatment and recovery.
As you’ll come to find out, a person struggling with addiction will frequently use deceptive ploys to acquire and use more of the substance, regardless of the harmful outcome for themself or other people. This can significantly damage the relationship you have worked to build with your child. You can counteract this by strengthening and rebuilding the relationship.
You can do this through straightforward and assertive communication. Good communication will help you detect problems early and be able to react in appropriate ways. Assertive communication includes balancing asking questions and actively listening to prompt a productive conversation. The best types of questions are open-ended and not judgmental. Open-ended questions can’t be answered with one word so they allow for increased communication and a better trading of ideas.
Open-ended questions include:
- Why did you start using drugs?
- What would make you want to quit?
- What do you dislike or like about the idea of getting treatment?
- What do you like or dislike about continuing to use the substance?
Being over-emotional is not part of assertive communication. If you become too sarcastic, upset, or irrational, leave the situation and plan to return to the subject at a later time. It’s essential to return to the conversation and not ignore it.
Focusing on the mistakes and poor decision-making by your child will only lower their confidence, harm their self-esteem, and decrease their sense of personal power. These results can lead to ongoing substance abuse. Instead of that, emphasize their positive traits and encourage positive behaviors.
When you use encouragement and optimism, it builds a sense of teamwork and cooperation while reducing negativity and conflict. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), don’t focus on past failures, You should concentrate on 3 positive messages:
- You can do it. (I believe in you. You can be successful)
- You have good ideas. (You are smart and able. How can I help you?)
- You are important. (I value you and need you in my life.)
If you keep these messages in mind, the communication will be enabling, not critical or defeating. Communicating that you want your child to grow to their full potential may also help you get them to a treatment center.
As the parent of an addict, setting guidelines will establish clear expectations about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Consistent, clear rules are linked to improved outcomes. Not only do guidelines help your child, but they also help determine your reactions to events as they arise.
Guidelines are best when they are developed with cooperation from your child. By doing it this way, all parties have a say about the consequences of the behaviors before it is done. The best guidelines will be a list of cause-and-effect statements. “If this behavior occurs, then this response will be the consequence.” By establishing clear and consistent guidelines for the most likely events, you can lower the odds of emotionally driven reactions.
Remember that poor consistency in enforcing your guidelines will make them ineffective. Enforcement at some times and not at others renders them ineffective. Inconsistency will harm the relationship with your child and they will start to lose respect for you.
Since guidelines are a set of rules based on behaviors, boundaries are the things that you will and won’t do for your child. People with drug addictions are especially good at pushing the boundaries of loved ones, either directly or indirectly through manipulation. The time to set your boundaries is during periods when you’re calm and thinking rationally about what you will or won’t accept.
To help you establish clear boundaries with your child, think about the following questions:
- Are you agreeable to lying to your child?
- Would you be willing to give up your needs for the wants of your child?
- What kind of treatment do you expect from your child?
Are You Helping or Enabling?
Boundaries help spell out the difference between helping or enabling your child. Enabling is a sign of poor boundary setting where you begin taking too much responsibility for your child’s actions. Enablers often:
- Make excuses
- Blame themselves
- Concentrate on reducing short-term pain
- Reinforce drug use unintentionally
In the short term, strong boundaries may increase conflict. However, they will demonstrate to your child that you can’t be manipulated. With firm and appropriate boundaries, the responsibility for your child’s behavior is theirs. This increases the chances of willingness to get addiction treatment eventually.
Stronger boundaries and guidelines will help your ability to lower stress. But to achieve the results you want, you must also practice self-care. Self-care is the act of making your own needs a priority. For parents of addicted children, it is a very important tool. As you try to take care of your child’s needs through long periods of chaos, your stress grows greater. Increased stress can become evident in several physical and mental health conditions such as:
- Weak immune system (making you more likely to become ill)
- Attention and memory problems
- Heart disease
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has listed ways to improve your self-care that include:
- Ask for and accept help
- Spend time in activities you enjoy with people you like
- Care for your physical and mental health
- Join a support group
- Reduce stress in the other areas of your life
- Practice relaxation skills
Caring for yourself will improve your ability to care for your child. If you’re experiencing unwanted effects from stress, you become less competent in decision-making, consistency, and encouragement. Exhibiting appropriate self-care allows you to demonstrate desirable behaviors for your child.
Discrimination and substance use disorder stigma are major problems. Three coping mechanisms are commonly described. They are:
- Secrecy (hiding the problem)
- Challenging others about their stigmatizing attitudes and behavior
- Educating others about the illness
The most common coping mechanism was to hide the problem (73%). Only 51% of people ever challenged others because of their discriminatory attitudes and actions.
Breaking the Stigma
Stigma is a problem with illnesses ranging from cancer to many mental conditions. But public education and the use of effective medications have made some issues less taboo than in the past. Still, very little progress has been made in removing the stigma around substance use disorders (SUDs). Individuals with SUD are still blamed for their disease.
One way to start tackling the stigma is by revising the terms and words used when talking about substance use disorder and the people affected by it. Research shows that using “person-first” language is necessary to reduce stigma. This language focuses on the person and not on their addiction. These alternatives to stigmatizing language are consistent with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
Instead of this: substance abuse, drug abuse
Say this: Substance use disorder
Instead of this: drug habit
Say this: Addiction
Instead of this: abuser, substance abuser, drug abuser, addict, alcoholic, drunk, junkie, user
Say this: A person with a substance use disorder
Instead of this: clean (person)
Say this: In recovery
Instead of this: clean (or dirty) toxicology results
Say this: Positive (or negative) toxicology results
There also needs to be a wider recognition that vulnerability to the changes in the brain caused by SUD is greatly influenced by factors outside the individual’s control. When people with addiction are stigmatized and rejected, it only adds to the vicious cycle that reinforces their disease.
If you suspect that the child of a friend is using substances, it could be difficult to convince your friend of the situation. But if you have reason to suspect substance use, don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution. Here are some starting points your friend can use to spot signs of drug use in their child:
- Withdrawn, depressed, sullen
- Lack of motivation
- Angry, hostile, uncooperative
- Secretive or deceitful
- Lack of focus
- Loss of inhibitions
- Unusually elated or hyperactive
- Changing relationships with friends and family members
- Loss of interest in activities, school, or work
- Avoiding eye contact
- Keeps door locked
- Disappears for extended periods
- Secretive with phone use
- Constantly makes excuses
- Goes out a lot and breaks curfew often
- Constantly needs money
- Unusually clumsy, stumbling, poor coordination
- Periods of sleeplessness or increased energy followed by long periods of sleep
- Unusual smells on breath or clothes
- Messier appearance than usual
- Poor hygiene
- Frequently flushed or red cheeks or face
- Burns or soot on lips or fingers
- Track marks on legs or arms
- Long sleeves in warm weather to hide track marks
- Frequent illness
- Unusual tiredness or lethargy
- Slurred or rapid-fire speech, unable to speak understandably
- Nosebleeds or runny noses not caused by a cold or allergies
- Sores around mouth
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Bruises and skin abrasions
- Sweating frequently
- Seizures or vomiting
Many people who experience SUD are surprised at how difficult it is to quit. The reason for this is that addiction affects the brain and changes impulse control and judgment. These changes in the brain make quitting more difficult. Although it’s a complicated process, sobriety is possible. Many factors make quitting difficult–mental, emotional, and biological. This is why so many people find that professional treatment helps them through the process safely and comfortably.
Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery Center in Idaho has experienced professionals available to help your son through the complexities of SUD treatment.
Our addiction specialists are knowledgeable and trained in treating a range of addictions. We know what to expect and how to help your child through it.
Gender-specific treatment: Eagle Creek Ranch is a male-only treatment center. We have found that men are more open about discussing their problems with other men, without the presence of females.
If your son needs help with a substance use disorder, we are here to help. It’s what we do. And if your child is highly resistant to treatment, we can help you stage an intervention. You don’t have to suffer with hopelessness over your son’s addiction. Contact us today.
Kendall Maloof is the clinical director at Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has held multiple leadership roles before settling here at Eagle Creek. Kendall received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2016. Her career in mental and behavioral health began in 2014 when she took up internships in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. She interned at multiple reputable companies, such as The Living Success Center and 449 Recovery in California.
In 2019, Kendall became the clinical director of Sunsets Recovery for Woman, a dual diagnosis program in southern California. Kendall is a natural leader. She has an incredible ability to problem solve and stay calm in any situation. Kendall never fails to show up when she is needed, and her calm demeanor makes her team and clients feel at ease. Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery is proud to have Kendall as our clinical director.