Has your child recently finished rehab or drug counseling? Are you struggling to find the balance between back-to-school stress and recovery? You’re not alone; this is a hard part of the year for us at Clearfork Academy because we see so many families tackling this problem. If you’re concerned school may get in the way of your child’s recovery, let us walk you through what you can expect and how to help your family adjust to a new normal.
1. How long after treatment can my teen go back to school?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions. Should you wait three weeks? One day? The best time frame is not a hard-and-fast rule, because each situation is unique. This is a difficult transition and can potentially be triggering for your child. Pay attention to their habits as they leave treatment–are they making friends with other kids in recovery? Do they take an active role in their recovery process or wait for you to prompt them?
There is a party culture and peer pressure in schools, so make sure your child has the tools to succeed before sending them back in. Have conversations about your child’s triggers and what coping strategies they can use in a social setting.
2. What should we talk about before my teen goes back to school?
It’s easy to make a laundry list of topics to discuss before sending your teen back to school, but some of the most important conversations can get lost in the mix that way. Focus your efforts on a few key areas: boundaries, triggers, and people.
– Boundaries & Triggers
Setting healthy boundaries is a critical step in long-lasting recovery–remember: it’s a life-long commitment. What are the positive boundaries we can set to help avoid negative triggers? If your teen used to stop by a popular smoking spot before or after school, don’t just give them a vague lesson in avoidance. Replace things they should avoid with a positive alternative. Instead of going for a smoke with their friends after school, maybe they can stop for a snack on the way home or get involved in an activity like sports, drama, or community outreach to fill in the gaps. Sit down and make a plan on what their before and after school will look like. It’s also important to note these should involve positive things that your teen enjoys. If they don’t like the plan, it can feel like a consequence and has a higher-potential to fail.
Have good places, good substitutions, and good habits ready for your child to pull from for any situation that could be triggering.
Peer pressure is one of the big concerns for parents when sending their teen back to school during recovery; however, not all peer pressure comes from wild parties or bad influences. Role models and icons come in all shapes and sizes–musicians, celebrities, and even people your teen knows in real life. Don’t tear down important figures, but it’s okay to stress that everyone can make good and bad decisions. Your tten may love a rock band’s music, but that doesn’t mean they have to play guitar and do cocaine, right?
It’s not just peer pressure to partake in drugs that needs to be on the radar–even old friends and teachers could be a potential point of failure. Good friends don’t always have bad intentions–they could be trying to have fun, or loosen up and not understand potentially triggering situations for your teen. Have the conversation NOW with your child and help them set their boundaries. Roleplay some ways they can discuss them with their friends and peers or how to get out of a triggering situation.
Teachers can be pillars of support or cracks in your child’s armor. Identify the positive adults at school with your teen and find out ways they can spend more time with that teacher. If there is an authority figure your teen butts heads with, strategize how to diffuse conflict and maybe even how to avoid that adult as much as possible.
There is no answer that will fit every family, but having some deep conversations can really make all the difference in your child’s success as they return to school. Recovery is an ongoing process and it’s important to identify positive support and potential weaknesses to help stay on track.