Is your teen:
- exhibiting disruptive behavior
- absent from school
- losing interest in extracurricular activities
- on the phone at odd hours
- spending time with friends you haven't met
Even good parents have kids who make bad decisions. They may think "not my kid." It is important for parents to take action at the first sign of trouble. By not marginalizing drug or alcohol abuse, you will be better able to deal with the problem. Things you don't want to tell yourself are:
"It's just a phase"
"She's just expressing his individuality"
"He's just a kid; kids do stupid things."
If this truly were a phase, part and partial to adolescence, then every teen would have this phase. You'd be able to walk into your teen's homeroom at school and see the same type of behavior or appearance in each and every one of his or her classmates. Hanging around with others who abuse drugs and alcohol is not an expression of individuality. It's an unhealthy and dangerous habit.
You may tell yourself that adolescence is naturally turbulent. Why else would kids do such stupid things to test their limits? Whereas it may be true that kids do stupid things, an adolescent is a person who is no longer a child but not yet an adult. As an almost-adult, adolescents should be given privileges, responsibilities and discipline--all administered by an attentive parent or parents. If you find evidence that your adolescent is abusing drugs or alcohol, don't just assume that he will shape up on his own. As a parent you must act swiftly and strongly to address this dangerous and immoral behavior.
Parents who set healthy boundaries and model moral behavior should expect their adolescents to follow suit. However, in some cases teens feel a need to explore beyond the safe zone of the boundaries set by their parents. When this happens and the teen gets caught behaving badly, it's easy for parents to blame themselves. Instead of focusing on trying to figure out where (if at all) you went wrong as a parent, focus on doing the right thing for your teen. You must act swiftly and unequivocally to address the problem of drug or alcohol abuse.
Don't be afraid or ashamed to admit that the problem is bigger than you can handle on your own. Many people feel a stigma in asking for help. They perceive weakness in themselves if they can't "fix" a problem in the family. The best and most loving thing to do as a parent is to deal with abuse and addiction as the serious thing that it is. This may involve calling your local police department and filing charges of drug possession against your teen. You may also need to get your son or daughter into an inpatient treatment facility. There are many resources available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Al-Anon, each of which are designed to help those affected by addiction and their families. Consult your local phone book, or avail yourself of the resources linked on this page.