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TheRelationshipCafe 09/02/08

Teenagers and Addiction

There are 22.6 million Americans addicted to drugs and alcohol. To say that America has a problem is an understatement. There are nearly 35 million families with children at risk for drug and alcohol addiction.

But what if this American tragedy strikes close to home? Specifically, what do you do if your son or daughter lapses into drug or alcohol addiction? This is a question facing far too many parents today.

There was a time when our greatest fear as parents was whether our children would flunk a class or get into a fight at school. We worried about them picking up bad habits, perhaps learning language that was didn’t fit our family values. Those are no longer our greatest fears. We now fear that our children will be among the statistics: the average age for a youth experimenting with illegal drugs is 14.5 years of age!

As parents, this ought to concern us. I explain in depth in my latest book, Breaking Everyday Addictions, that drugs, alcohol and other addictive activities and substances, steal our freedom. They lead to a downward spiral of loss: loss of health, loss of vitality, loss of relationships, loss of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Not only does teenage drug and alcohol addiction affect the teenager, but of course the entire family as well. Listen to a recent email from the mother of a daughter who is engaging in risky behavior, as well as involvement with drugs and alcohol.

Dear Dr. Hawkins. My husband and I are sick to death about what we see happening to our sixteen year old daughter. She has always been a good girl, but lately she has been hanging out with a bad crowd, and we suspect she is involved in drugs, alcohol and possibly sexual activity. Her grades have been dropping and she has developed an attitude against our authority. Please understand that this is all unusual for her as she has always been a very wonderful daughter.
My question is this: What can parents do to protect their children from these kinds of activities. We hate to see such a wonderful daughter turn to something that could change her life forever. Please offer help.
       --Troubled Mom

Dear Troubled.
Your concerns echo those of thousands of other parents watching their children make disastrous choices that often alter their lives. Let me offer several things to consider in regards to your daughter and what you can do as concerned parents.

First, I am glad that you and your husband are interested parents, concerned about your daughter’s welfare. I wish this were true of all parents. Your concern and involvement will certainly help your daughter, and at some level she appreciates your love and caring.

Second, your concern and involvement must lead to closer supervision. Know where your daughter is and what she is doing. Don’t be afraid to step in and assist your daughter in understanding that responsibility leads to freedom, while irresponsibility leads to less freedom. Make certain that you are reinforcing that principle. Learning the impact of violating boundaries now can save her from a lot of heartache later in life.

Third, ask questions. Talk to your teenager. Studies confirm that involved parents, those who ask questions, actually help their children make better choices. Fear of asking the tough questions won’t help your daughter. Communicate with her. Talk to her. Maintain a relationship with her.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to insist on random urinanalyses if you suspect drug and alcohol involvement. If your daughter is using illicit drugs, it is likely she will need treatment. Also, don’t be afraid to seek assistance from your local teen drug and alcohol treatment facility. Get information. Take your daughter with you to talk to the professionals. Know the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use and abuse.

Finally, maintain high moral and spiritual values in your home. The Scriptures are clear that when we “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22: 6) These are powerful truths/ promises that will help you in the days ahead.

I’d like to hear from other parents. What would you like to tell these parents? What have you done that has helped or hurt your teenager?
 

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