Dr. Cali Estes - The Addictions Academy ®

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Your Child Has an Addiction Problem

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Your Child Has an Addiction Problem


There is nothing that parents wouldn’t do for their children, and perhaps no other instance is this saying put to the test better than when the latter are faced with addiction or substance abuse problems. As a parent, you may feel shocked or surprised at discovering that your child is deep into drugs or alcohol. You may also feel ashamed and concerned about your family’s reputation in society or in your community. Finally, you may feel guilt and self-pity, and reprimand yourself for allowing such a situation to happen.

All of these are normal reactions to finding out that your teenager is into substance abuse, because it is a serious and life-altering situation indeed. However, this is also the time for you to keep your wits together and to act in the best interest of your child. Keep in mind that it is difficult enough for an individual to struggle under addiction, so you need utmost care in dealing with the situation and to extend the right kind of help. Here are 5 things that you shouldn’t do when your child has an addiction problem:

Don’t blame or shame. “How could you do this?” or “How did this happen?” is an immediate thought of any person toward a loved one who has fallen into addiction or substance abuse. While this may be a normal reaction of anyone trying to make sense of the situation, it is not helpful to the individual undergoing the addiction as it will make negative feelings worse. Keep in mind that substance abuse is usually already kept a secret by the individual with substance use disorder because they are aware of the detrimental impact the situation may have on their families.

Placing blame on the person or inducing guilt simply pushes them farther away from loved ones and from the potential help that they may provide. Rather than alienating them, this is a time to reassure the individual that they are loved, respected, and acknowledged despite what they have done. A person experiencing an addiction problem requires validation of their self-worth.

Don’t take the cudgels. On the other hand, as a parent, you may feel the instinct to protect your child at all costs. This may also be unhelpful as it shields them from the repercussions of their actions. While it may be difficult for you to see your child suffer, it is important that they don’t just go scot-free. Facing the consequences of addiction and the lawless activities that it may engender teaches the child responsibility and accountability. Keeping your child in a bubble simply keeps them out of touch with reality and unaware of the negative effects of their actions. In turn, it may even encourage the addictive behavior because they don’t see anything wrong with it.

Don’t call the shots. Another instinct of parents is to act on behalf of their child or to force them into doing what they think is right. Most of the time, this struggle is evident in the process of placing the individual into rehab. As the saying goes, you may lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The challenge in having an individual undergo rehab is to be able to illustrate the benefits and the positive outcome of the experience. Offer rehab as an opportunity to get better. Coercing the person may only make them comply to please everyone but not internalize the process for long-term recovery. This places them at risk of relapse later on. Engaging your child in a dialogue is important to communicate love and concern, while at the same time offering rehab as a valuable chance to turn their life around. A person with substance use disorder is more likely to resist or rebel in a situation where they feel they are not being heard or respected.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Part of being careful not to exert unnecessary pressure upon your child is not to act as if you know everything. Addiction is a complex health and mental condition that requires a lot of knowledge and understanding. That is why the first step you should do to support someone in sobriety is to seek professional help. Medical and healthcare experts are in the best position to deal with the situation and to guide you on the proper steps toward the recovery of your child. Don’t assume things or act on speculation.

Don’t be impatient. Above all, give your child time to recover. Impatience about the progress of their recovery only reinforces feelings of guilt or shame, and it may even serve as an obstacle to recovery. In fact, full recovery from addiction or substance abuse is a whole different journey in itself. Resisting temptation and going against relapse will be a long-term struggle. You need to express your continuing support for your child on this life-long challenge.

There may be a lot of well-meaning friends or loved ones who will give you unsolicited advice, but make sure to go only with those that are in line with proven techniques and protocols. If you truly care for the welfare of your child, always think twice before reacting and know the right things to say and do that will not further worsen the situation.

Parents, family members, and loved ones of a child suffering with an addiction, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Our elite team is here for YOU!  Check out all we offer at The Addictions Coach or call us today, at 1.800.706.0318 ext 1

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