It is very important to keep open and honest lines of communication with your teens. The more approachable and easier it is for them to talk to you the better off you will be. You want your teen to come to you without fear of judgement. Remember that up to this point you were their only source of information. Now they will be thrust into a very different set of social situations where there will be many more people talking to them. You want to make sure that they still feel comfortable coming to you with their questions and their fears.
Once the lines of communication have been established be clear with them as to why you want them to stay away from drugs and alcohol. It is very easy for parents to just forbid them from doing things without offering an explanation as to why. So again be clear and explain yourself. This will invite a more open and adult conversation, and help them to better understand the consequences of drinking or using drugs.
Some reasons why your teen may start to abuse substances
- Peer pressure – teenagers face a tremendous amount of peer pressure and the need to fit in, especially from friends that they had in grade school. An otherwise confident teen may succumb to the pressure and the need to “fit in” to appear cool and mature. With this in mind they may feel the pressure to try drugs and alcohol so they won’t be ostracized by their friends. This can soon spiral out of control and before you know it your teen is addicted to a substance.
- Social anxiety. – your teen who may already be struggling with some form of social anxiety may feel the pressure to fit in and be more like their peers. This can mean that they are more willing to be influenced by others to accept the offer of drugs and alcohol.
- Issues with pain – your teen may be an athlete who gets injured while playing sports. Unfortunately doctors are still ready to write prescriptions for pain medication. Drug dependency often occurs when your teen starts taking these meds to numb their body from the pain. It is very easy to cross over from using these meds correctly to begin abusing them.
- Trauma – teens may turn to drug or alcohol abuse to try to numb the pain of a trauma. Drugs and alcohol can help turn down the intense volume of the emotions and pain that was a result of the trauma.
Understanding teen depression
Remember depression is a mental health disorder which often presents itself with feelings of sadness, hopelessness and sometimes even guilt. Any teen can develop depression but families with a history of mood disorders and who may have experienced a stressful life event are at a higher risk. Teen depression is more common in girls but can affect boys as well.
Again talking to your teen is very important because most teenagers try to hide their symptoms or refuse to talk about them. However teen depression can be evident if you know what to look for. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Unusual sleeping habits
- Weight and appetite changes
- Low energy and increased fatigue
- Dramatic change in their grades at school
- Lack of interest in hobbies, activities or relationships that once gave them pleasure
- Suicidal ideations
Teen depression is very real and can be a severe problem, it is important to remember that if your teen is suffering from depression to get help. It is very easy for your teen to slip into drug or alcohol abuse if left untreated. Drugs can stimulate your teen’s brain to produce hormones that will improve their mood in the short term and alcohol can numb them so that their feelings of sadness or hopelessness goes away.
The more that your teen uses substances to self medicate them more likely your teen is to become an addict. It is so important for parents to be tuned in to their teens and their teens’ friends. Stay involved with their lives and participate in open discussions. If you find that your teen is reluctant to talk to you, provide them with the opportunity to speak to someone who they trust.
In conclusion I can’t stress how important it is to talk, talk, talk to your teen even when you don’t think they are listening. And remember that it is very easy for them to get swept up into the circle of addiction. It’s a cycle easy to get into but not so easy to get out of, but if you find yourself in that cycle there is help and resources to guide you through.