Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse: A Confrontation Guide for Parents

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Teenage drug and alcohol abuse can be a scary prospect for any parent.  Discovering your child is using drugs or alcohol often generates fear, confusion, and anger in parents.  Your initial thought is probably “not my child”, but know that addiction and substance abuse affects every community, race and ethnic group in America.  There is no shame, addiction and drug abuse are diseases that can be treated and your child can live a long, healthy life in recovery.

You may be angry and want to confront your teen immediately, but it’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen to create an open dialogue rather than a screaming match.  Only confront your teen when everyone is sober.  Remember teenage drug and alcohol abuse is scary to your child as well.  It is important that your child feel that you are supportive and still love them.  Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love.

Confronting Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse 101

We’ve put together some tips for parents as they confront their child about teenage drug and alcohol abuse and search for treatment.

Stay Calm. Be Supportive

Aim to have an open discussion with your teen.  Teens are known to be moody and disrespectful, so if the timing doesn’t work once, try again.  It is important that your teen knows that they have not lost your love and that you support steps toward recovery.  Recognize that although as a parent you will want to end teenage drug and alcohol abuse immediately, recovery takes time.  The length of time may try your patience, but stay calm and be supportive in whatever way you can.

Lay down rules and consequences

When you talk to your child, explain the house rules and the consequences.  Let your teen know that you will not enable teenage drug and alcohol abuse in your home.  Be specific about consequences and be prepared to enforce them.  Remember, your child may be suffering from addiction and it can be hard for them to stay within the rules you lay out.  This may try your nerves, but get support from your spouse and other family members.  Confronting teenage drug and alcohol abuse requires tough love and support.

Monitor your teen’s activity

Being an active and informed parent can help end teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  After confronting your teen, ask questions and get answers before your teen leaves.  Know where your child goes and his or her friends. Routinely check hiding places for drugs and alcohol- in backpacks, under the bed, between clothes in a drawer, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of him or her having been caught using drugs or alcohol.

Talk to your child about underlying issues.

Teenage drug and alcohol abuse can be the result of other underlying problems at home or at school.  Open up to your child about things that may be going on in the family, such as a divorce or moving.  Ask probing questions and empathize with their situation.  Remember, teens view their problems as monumental so try to see problems from their perspective.

Get Help

You shouldn’t confront teenage drug and alcohol abuse alone. Seek help from a family doctor, therapist or addiction counselor.  Teenagers often rebel against their parents but the same information from another authoritative source may be well received.  You should serve a loving and supportive role to your child, part of doing so means reaching out for professional help when needed.