What Would You Have Done Differently if You Knew Your Child Was Struggling With an Addiction

A while back, my wife and I were having a conversation with friends and the conversation turned to that question: What would you have done differently? It’s a question we all ponder endlessly. It stabs us in the heart. It causes untold hours of sleepless nights.  It’s a question we could gladly discuss for hours and still have more to say — if only doing so actually helped someone else.

A better question for us parents is, “What signs should we look for and which ones did we miss?”

We asked ourselves this very question the last time we met.  As parents of loved ones with a drug or alcohol addiction, how many times did we blow right through the warning signs as if they weren’t even there? And, if there were parenting cops, how many charges would we be guilty of?

Below are circumstances that parents may be guilty of.

“Teenage alcohol use is a rite of passage, right?” Even if we drank as teenagers, it cannot justify us failing to exercise our parental responsibility. Punishing our kids and then laughing about it later on with them is not going to teach them a thing.

“Kids are going to try pot. It’s just a little weed.. no big deal, right? I’m sure there are addicts out there that didn’t start with weed, but I have never met them.” We have heard the term “gateway drug.” Weed is a drug. Not every kid that tries weed will become a heroin addict, but it opens doors to all possibilities.

“The cops, teachers, judges, security officers are just being jerks. Don’t worry baby, it wasn’t that bad. We’ll help get you out of it. All we have to do is get a good lawyer and pay extra; the trouble goes away.” A cop, teacher, judge, or security officer can act as a role model to teens. It is a way to show children what is wrong and what they should not be doing. These role models fill our lives to keep us, including our children, on the right path.

“Why did that intake person at the rehab facility ask if there were any addiction/alcohol problems in the family? Why is that relevant? It’s really none of their business. We are here with our child, not to talk about relatives’ problems.” A child is at a much greater risk to use alcohol and drugs when there is history of addiction in the family.

“My kid wouldn’t do that or go that far — he’s just having fun. You know, boys will be boys. Basically he’s a good kid and he knows his limits and we taught him better than that.” At times, parents are not willing to admit that their child may have a drug or alcohol problem. This can prolong their problem rather than using that time to get the help that they need.

“I really don’t like the way you dress and talk now.  The music you like has changed, too. Your friends, your manners, your disrespect, your grades, your tattoos, your piercings, but I know you will grow out of it.” When your child has an addiction, there may be behavioral changes and signs to indicate he/she is struggling with a problem. Do not ignore them.

“If I’m stressed, I usually drink a glass or two of wine to calm down. There is nothing wrong with that.. right?” Your child may pick up on habits that you, as a parent, or other role models may demonstrate. For example, if you tend to drink under stress, they may learn to believe that it is okay to do so. Use alternative methods, such as exercise or deep breathing, to show your child that alcohol or drugs are not the answer to all of your problems.

“My teen and I are best friends, I trust them with anything.” Being a parent and being a friend to a teen are two very different roles. Do not confuse the two.

Don’t be a guilty parent. Always be aware that your child is learning from you, even when you don’t think they’re watching.

Drug Guide For Parents

Educate yourself on the most common drugs that teens use, including what it looks like, dangers, signs of use, and important facts to know.