for Parenting Teens
by Kevin MacKinnon
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Today, we as a society are given many messages about alcohol and
other drugs. Young people see or hear about adults, peers and
role models using a variety of drugs for a diverse number of reasons.
When parents find out their child is abusing alcohol and /or other
drugs they often blame or place responsibility elsewhere. Parents
may also do the exact opposite to this and blame themselves for
their child's use. Instead of projecting blame upon themselves
or elsewhere, what parents can do is be responsible for their
own feelings, beliefs and behaviours.
our children come from families of addiction, they may be pre-disposed
to developing problems with alcohol and /or drugs. This is a fact
we can not change. What parents do have control over is their
own feelings, beliefs and behaviors that can create problems in
dealing with a substance abusing teenager.
of the feelings that parents often experience may include :
* Wanting to protect their child but may overreact and
* Some find it hard to take a stand because of their own insecurities
* Some give in to threats made by the teen, "If you don't...........then
I'll........." If parents give in to these threats, teens
will learn to use them to manipulate for what they want; or
* Some parents try to be the perfect parent. Anxiety around this
can drain their energies, resulting in decisions based on what
is easiest to deal with.
of the parents' beliefs or myths that can create problems may
* A belief that my teen cannot be responsible for him/herself.
"There are too many pressures out there;"
* A belief that there is nothing I can do......... I'm the last
person my child will listen to.....(studies show that kids hear
and do consider parents reactions);
* A belief that, "If everyone is doing it, it must be O.K."
Parents need to set clear consistent guidelines. We need to consider,
who ‘everyone' is;
* A belief that, "If I love my kids, I must always trust
them." Parents need to remember that love is unconditional
- trust is conditional; or
* A belief that, "Well at least it's only alcohol, marijuana,
etc." (Our biggest drug problems are with alcohol and marijuana).
A drug problem is a problem no matter what the drug.
can be even more dangerous than feelings and beliefs because they
are external. Problems can continue to worsen if parents:
* Keep secrets from one another, (Mom doesn't tell Dad
something or vice versa). This blocks communication which is key
if things are going to be dealt with in a healthy manner;
* Give in to avoid conflict. Teens learn quickly that if they
raise enough fuss they'll get their own way;
* Shield teen from consequences. This can give the message that
Mom/Dad will always be there to bail them out; or
* Do teens work for them? If not, this can give the messages,
"your contribution is not important." "Others will
do the work for you," and "Irresponsible behavior has
no undesirable consequences."
need to realize that some of the things we do out of love can
contribute to a teen continuing to use alcohol and/or other drugs.
Becoming aware and identifying unhelpful patterns can help us
stop or change them. We cannot make our kids change, but what
we can do is change how we may respond to their behaviours. It's
part of learning what we do and do not have control over.
facts are that most teens are not using and the great majority
of young people who experiment with drugs do not become regular
users. Parents must find out the extent of their use and the types
of drugs used, learn more about the dangers and keep themselves
updated of changes. Seeking help for themselves and their children
is never too early or never too late. Youth and Family Drug Counsellors
are there to provide some recommendations: it's up to you to follow
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