father having a conversation with his teenage son
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How Do I Talk to My Child About My Addiction?

father having a conversation with his teenage son

Many view parenthood as rewarding despite the challenges that come with the role. With substance use disorder (SUD) rates among teens on the rise, creating an environment for learning and growth has become increasingly challenging. Drug use often begins during the stages of adolescence. Substance use can take over important parts of your teen’s life without you even knowing it. The more you know about SUD and how to manage it, the better off you’ll be as a parent and as your child’s ally. 

Sometimes, parents’ knowledge of SUD evolves from their first-hand experience. Research reveals that SUD affects the entire family, especially children. Parents’ SUD leaves their children vulnerable to developing a SUD. As such, we recommend using your experience with SUD to discuss the impact of substance and drug use with your children, especially if they are struggling with substance use. Here are some helpful tips for talking to your teen about their SUD.

Don’t Hide Behind Shame

Along with the growing rate of drug use among adolescents, more and more teens have a caregiver who struggles with a SUD. According to the National Institute on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, nearly 9 million children live with at least one parent who struggles with substance use disorder. Don’t be ashamed of your history of use, have a discussion with your teen about your addiction. Talking about your former drug use or struggle with SUD can help challenge false ideas about SUD, build a deeper understanding of drug and alcohol use, and support your child in developing healthier behavior.

Family systems play a vital role in a youth’s life, particularly regarding their decision-making. Parents’ knowledge and experiences can serve the children’s growth. However, many parents experience some fear about discussing drug use and SUD with their teens. Yet, if you have dealt with a SUD, you can explain the process of SUD as a chronic condition. Consider the purpose, means, and context of sharing the information for your child’s betterment and safety. Apply your experience to discuss the ramifications of drug use, especially long-term use. Listen to what your teen has to say and speak from a place of honesty.

Having a Healthy Discussion

Having a discussion is a great opportunity to improve communication with your children. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers some suggestions to help you. Apply the following list as a reference point to improve communication:

  • Make sure to practice active listening by staying engaged and focused.
  • Refrain from using stigmatizing words like an “addict.”
  • Show that you accept and understand them.
  • Demonstrate compassion and respect through your words and actions.
  • Listen to your teen.
  • Hold these discussions in a quiet place with no distractions.
  • Place your focus on the positive.
  • Use studies and research that support treatment.
  • Give your teen time to process your words.

Consider the “7 C’s” as a Guide

Lies and half-truths about SUD often have a serious impact on teens. The truth serves them better in the long run. A guide or plan can help prepare you and offer some comfort as you go into this discussion. The  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a guide to assist parents and caregivers in discussing their condition, SUD. They refer to their guide as the “7 C’s.” 

They are as follows:

  • I didn’t cause it.
  • I can’t cure it.
  • I can’t control it.
  • I can care for myself.
  • I can communicate my feelings.
  • I can make healthy choices.
  • I will celebrate myself.

Ultimately, help your children understand that SUD is not a moral failing but rather a chronic condition. Like other chronic conditions, treatment exists to help people with SUD recover. If you are currently in recovery, this is a good time to express your journey of healing. It will give them insight into SUDs and hope if they also have a SUD. 

Encourage Positive Behaviors and Treatment

Take time to discuss the path of recovery. Such a discussion offers you another opportunity to encourage the benefits of treatment and positive behaviors. Recovery from SUD calls for action. 

Such action includes: 

  • Going to therapy.
  • Attending recovery group meetings.
  • Seeking professional treatment or entering a residential treatment program.
  • Following the treatment facilities program and aftercare plan.
  • Practicing acceptance regarding having a SUD or co-occurring mental health disorder.
  • Taking one’s prescribed medication appropriately and diligently.
  • Establishing a healthy routine that consists of relapse prevention activities that support long-term sobriety.

Use this discussion as an opportunity to take an active role in your child’s treatment. It ensures that they have a healthy support system around them. Such steps will facilitate positive behaviors in your teen and help them achieve long-term recovery. 

SUD is a chronic condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Help your teen deal with the realities of drug use by taking the time to discuss the matter. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that supportive family systems matter in the development and decision-making of adolescents. We work with families to encourage an environment where you and your teen work together to learn about addiction. Doing so helps build a positive relationship with your children. Our approach to care encompasses both conventional and holistic therapies to ensure that your teen has the best resources to care. Our primary goal is to help your teen gain the education and confidence necessary to overcome the challenges of everyday life. If you are having difficulty discussing SUDs with your teen, then get help today. Find out more and reach out to us today by calling (866) 650-5212.