..The Intuitive Times
Wellness for Teens


Tips 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.

If 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.

Some of the feelings that parents often experience may include :
* Wanting to protect their child but may overreact and rescue;
* Some find it hard to take a stand because of their own insecurities and guilt;
* 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.

Some of the parents' beliefs or myths that can create problems may include:
* 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.

Behaviours 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."

Parents 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.

The 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 through.


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