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Guide For Co-parenting Adolescents With a SUD

Watching your adolescent or teen struggle with mental illness is never an easy thing. It can be difficult to know what to do or say, even when your best interest lies in your child getting the help they need.

It is common for parents to go to great lengths to protect their adolescents from illness, injury, and hurt. When addiction and substance use begins to play a factor in their life, it can be shocking for a parent to understand how or why their child got to that point. Whether a parent experiences feelings of guilt, blame, or resentment towards their teen, there are unique things to keep in mind that can set your child up for an effective and efficient recovery journey.

Becoming an Educated Parent

Substance use and mental illness within any given home may pose numerous challenges. The most important factor in staying optimistic and understanding during it all is for each parent to become educated about addiction, mental illness, and substance use to the best of their ability. It also helps reduce intense feelings of guilt or shame, both for the parents and the child.

For example, many people do not learn to question the nature of addiction throughout their lives unless they become directly affected by it. Instead, people submit to stigmas and stereotypes created by society. With this, one of the most important things to understand about addiction and substance use/abuse is that they develop from a combination of factors, including:

  • Biological, genetic makeup
  • Parental influences
  • Home environment
  • Social influences
  • Psychological conditions, such as co-occurring conditions

When you first learn that your child is using substances, you may feel separated from them. Educate yourself about your teen’s substance of choice. Consider things like its addictive potential or how they came to use that specific substance. Question the myths and stereotypes of addiction, and hear your teen out. Learn more about the nature of addiction and how to be a supportive parent during their recovery journey. Both parents must be on the same page about what they know and understand about addiction.

Find Social Support

Educational opportunities may also come in the form of parental support groups. For parents who have a child with a substance use disorder, it is crucial to find a group that can help them feel supported and loved. You may feel like your teen’s condition is a burden on you, thinking that where your child is at is your fault. No matter where you stand with your teen, having positive social support can increase your understanding of mental health and minimize the consequences of stress, trauma, and other mental distress.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Every parent discovers teen substance use differently. Whether this is the first time, you’re addressing it or the fifth, how you have a conversation with your teen matters greatly. While learning about substance use, you will come to understand that substance use typically begins from feelings of isolation, lack of self-worth, or mental distress. Consider these factors when you talk with your teen about their substance use.

For example, when talking with your teen, you may want to consider:

  • Your tone of voice
  • Your word choice
  • Avoiding judgment
  • Avoiding shame

and instead, approaching the conversation from a place of:

  • concern for your teen’s past, present, and future
  • curiosity for how it all began
  • care and compassion for your teen
  • caution for all things considered

Co-parents must agree about how to go about having a conversation with their teens about their substance use. The home environment and parental influences are two crucial factors that influence why a teen may use substances, have parental dysfunction, or have disconnection. Co-parents must learn to ask questions without placing blame, treat their teens with dignity and respect, and set necessary boundaries for their teens moving forward.

How to Go About Utilizing Teen Treatment

It is the role of the parents to address what steps need to be taken for your teen to get the treatment that they need to recover from their addiction or substance use. Considering your teen’s age, it may help to discuss treatment options for your teen with your teen. Forced treatment rarely provides long-term recovery, so getting your teen on board with where you stand as a parent is necessary.

Consider the severity of your child’s addiction. Have a mental health professional evaluate your teen’s situation, as they will be able to recommend treatment centers or programs that could benefit your teen. Always remember to keep your best foot forward with your teen. As hard as it may be to send them to a treatment facility, all you and your partner want is what is best for your child.

Co-parenting a child or teen with a substance use disorder can be overwhelming. You may struggle to know what is best for your child, even with the help of your partner. You must obtain as much knowledge as possible about the nature of your teen’s addiction so that you can better understand their unique situation. Clearfork Academy is a teen treatment center that offers inpatient and outpatient programs, depending on the individualized needs of your teen. Our programs foster leadership, emotional, and behavioral skills that will empower them to take responsibility for their substance use. We believe in the potential of teenagers, and the power of Christ, to take charge of their lives. Remember, unity is required to help your teen manage their addiction. For more information about how to co-parent a child in recovery or about the treatment options that Clearfork Academy offers, give us a call today at (817) 259-2597.

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