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Three Ways Parents Can Help Their Teens Overcome Addiction

By Mikkie Mills

If you are the parent of a teenager who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, you may feel powerless to help. Addiction is a life threatening disease that affects the entire family, making it important to seek out help for all members and not just the addicted teen. Parents can take action to help. Learn about the top three strategies below.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) found that communication is critical to the recovery process. However, not all communication is equally effective. For starters, parents should approach their teen with an open and nonjudgmental tone. Body language should not be closed off which can trigger your teen to become defensive and refuse to communicate altogether. Allow your son or daughter to lead the conversation and provide a listening ear for the majority of the conversation. Once they are done talking, be careful with how you word your responses. Make sure each sentence is supportive and leads to a solution, such as seeking out professional help.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a proven way to encourage a desired behavior or action. Very Well Mind found that it not only increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the first place, but can also be used to maintain the behavior over time. The simplest way to remember how to use positive reinforcement correctly is that it adds to an outcome, such as your teen admitting they need professional help, choosing to seek out rehabilitation or maintaining a period of sobriety. The easiest form of positive reinforcement is praise. You may tell your teen "I'm proud of you," "Great job!," or use other phrases to encourage them to maintain good choices. Other ways incorporate tangible rewards such as money, day trips or other things that your teen may enjoy. For example, you can set a goal with your son or daughter that may be contingent on a short period of sobriety such as one month. Once they meet their goal, they will earn the reward you both outlined. This method is based ion psychology and used by behaviorists all over the globe. It can be an effective tool especially when dealing with teens.

Get Professional Help

Regardless of whether or not your teen is willing to begin a treatment plan in an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab Utah facility, you can still begin searching for the right center for your family's needs and get help for yourself and other members such as your spouse. Rehabilitation programs often involve the entire family in the recovery process. This is accomplished through family nights, counseling and even social activities. Start your search by contacting rehabilitation centers that you feel may be a good match and be sure to visit them in person before making your final choice. When you are ready to bring up the topic to your teen, emphasize that everything is taken care of and that there will be no stress or rough transition on their part. Maintain a supportive attitude throughout the process to increase the chance that they will participate actively.

In some cases, teens may be highly resistant to treatment. Healthy Children recommends speaking to your teen's primary care physician for tools and resources related to addiction. He or she may also help get to any underlying trigger that has caused the addiction, such as a mental illness or past trauma. Mental health services are necessary in situations such as these and can greatly reduce your teen's substance abuse and help them overcome it entirely.

Watching your teenager struggle with an addiction to alcohol or drugs is a heartbreaking and deeply upsetting experience, but you can help. Use these strategies to take the most effective action possible and get your child on the road to recovery and wellness.

About Mikkie Mills: “I’m a Chicago native who loves to share her expertise about personal development and growth. When I’m not writing, I’m chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym.” More articles by Mikkie.

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