No parent wants to learn that their child has drugs or alcohol in their possession. With frightening stories on the news of teens overdosing, drug and alcohol abuse, and thoughts of what a drug habit could become, you may be overwhelmed with fear, sadness, and anger. You might be worried, even frantic.
However, before you respond to your child and make a call to a drug or alcohol rehab center, take some time to assess the situation. You’ll want to handle the situation firmly but calmly. It will help if you speak with a professional who understands drug abuse in children and teens.
Know the Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Spotting the signs of drug or alcohol abuse can help you address it. You might notice that your child is getting bored and has lost interest in activities that he or she once enjoyed, such as spending time with their friends. They may have missed days of school or arrived late to classes. Their grades may have dropped, or maybe they quit their extracurricular activities.
Additionally, your child might have a new group of friends. You might notice that your child’s mood or behavior has changed, or that they have more or less energy than usual. Sometimes, your child may be despondent, distance themselves from you, or spend more time alone in their room. They may sleep more than usual or have a completely different sleep schedule than before.
Your child may have pinpoint pupils or bloodshot eyes; his eyes may water. Also, he may have frequent nosebleeds if they’re snorting a substance. Shakes and tremors are possible, and so is a sudden change in weight with no other apparent cause.
If your child is selling drugs, they may start buying more items or shopping for more expensive items. You might notice that they use their phone more often or use it at peculiar times. If they are selling drugs, you might see random numbers in their phone, more text messages, or multiple short phone calls. You might notice that your child leaves the house soon after they receive a phone call or text.
Talk with a Professional
Consider talking with someone about your child’s suspected drug or alcohol use. You may want to speak with a professional who works with children, such as a child psychologist. This professional can educate you about the warning signs of substance abuse. At your meeting, you can discuss your problems and how to solve them.
Although drug and alcohol abuse is scary and can lead to potential future problems, the severity of the issue can make a difference in how you address the matter. While a serious problem may require the intervention of an alcohol or drug inpatient rehab, if your child tried a drug or used alcohol once, you may be able to address the matter by talking with your child.
Psychologists may be able to give you specific advice on what you should say to your child to ensure your child takes you seriously but doesn’t feel threatened or become defensive.
Talk with Your Child
To address your problems, communicate with your child. Sit down and have a conversation with your child face-to-face. Eliminate distractions, such as phones, televisions, and computers. Tell your child to put down any video games or other electronic devices so they can’t avoid you.
Begin the conversation by saying that you noticed changes in your child’s behavior. Let them know that this concerns you as a parent. Don’t yell or become emotional. You want your child to feel safe, so they feel comfortable with talking to you.
Be aware that your child may deny any drug or alcohol use. They probably aren’t trying to hurt or deceive you, they probably just don’t want to get in trouble.
Even if your child denies using drugs, you want to let them know that alcohol and drugs are dangerous. Explain how children have overdosed and how drugs and alcohol can cause long-term health issues. Inform your child that you’re not angry with them, but let them know that you’re worried that something could happen to them and you don’t want that to happen.
Or, your child may admit to drug or alcohol use and ask if you’ve ever tried the substances yourself. At this point, you want to be open and honest. If you lie, your child may be able to see that and could stop talking with you.
It’s okay to admit that you’ve tried drugs in the past, but stress that it was a mistake and that you regret it. If you’ve had alcohol or drug abuse issues, you could tell your child that you’ve struggled in the past and don’t want to see them take that same path.
If your child does admit to drug or alcohol use, ask them why they tried the substances. Your questions can help you gain a better understanding of the situation. At the conclusion of the talk, let your child know that you’re always there for them.
One talk usually isn’t enough to get your point across. You’re going to have to keep checking and repeating yourself.
As a parent, you’re going to want to stay on the lookout for signs of drug abuse and continue to check if your child is bringing home alcohol or drugs. If they do, you want to make sure that you intervene.
Try not to yell and scream at them, though, because your child could withdraw from you. If you do find drugs or alcohol, let your child know what you found and tell them that you don’t allow this behavior.
However, you still need to set some sort of punishment for their behavior and make sure you follow through with it. You want your child to know that you’re serious and that you don’t want them to do things that could harm their health or future.
If the abuse doesn’t stop, or if you think the problem is more significant than just a one-time experiment, intervene and consider contacting a drug and alcohol inpatient rehab to find help.
The possibility that your child could be using drugs or alcohol is frightening, but you can handle it. Remain open, so your child feels comfortable talking with you, but you still also need to set boundaries and let them know that there are consequences for their actions.