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Addiction is a brain disease that causes compulsive substance use, negative behaviors and strong drug cravings and drug seeking. Parenting a teen is rarely all smooth sailing, but when you add teen addiction to the equation – and all the behaviors that tend to accompany addiction – relations in the family can get pretty fractured; and that’s a shame, because teens dealing with addiction truly benefit from the support of a unified and loving family behind them.

Every family differs and no two stories of addiction run the same course, but though a lot can vary, pain in the family is rarely avoided. So how can you raise a child with addiction to happy healthy adulthood while maintaining the peace and harmony – and love – in the family?

There’s no one right answer, but follow the advice of the experts at the National Alliance on Mental Illness on how to love and rear a child with addiction and you stand a pretty good chance of a happy ending.

Parenting a Teen with Addiction – 8 Steps to Success

  1. Make sure your teen feels your love and caring and understanding as he or she goes through a very difficult recovery process. Try to put aside any lingering hurts and just be there when they need you - and during addiction recovery, they definitely need you.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t act embarrassed. Addiction is a disease; it’s not something anyone chooses and thankfully, recovery is very possible.
  3. Your child needs professional addiction treatment. There is no substitute for this, but it’s also important to strongly encourage participation in community support groups during and after the formal treatment process.
  4. Forget guilt trips and histrionics – they won’t do anything to help your child overcome nearly overwhelming compulsions and cravings, but they will probably make him or her feel badly…
  5. Forget the lectures too – If you’ve said it all 100 times already then adding on that 101st lecture probably won’t do much good. Do communicate but do not nag.
  6. Don’t forget to hold him or her accountable though – You may understand what drives your teen to drink or use drugs, but that does not mean you have to accept these behaviors. Communicate the consequences of breaking the rules of the house and make sure you follow through on any threatened consequences for infractions.
  7. Encourage participation in supervised after school activities or sports, an after school job or an after school community volunteering project. These activities can build self esteem, provide healthy outlets for energy and frustration and can teach teens how to enjoy life without resorting to getting high or drunk.
  8. Remember that recovery is a process and not an event and that setbacks and relapses are the norm, and not the exception.1
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Page last updated Sep 19, 2011

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