Being a teen is hard, and so is parenting a teen! Teens are growing into adulthood and are in the difficult position of having to fulfill expectations and responsibilities, while still being viewed as a kid. They are stressed out and craving independence, which often leads to testing limits, pushing boundaries, and experimenting with alcohol or drugs.
Experimentation can be a normal part of adolescence and growing up. However, sometimes, drug and alcohol use becomes more serious and might have real consequences and repercussions for teenagers and their families.
Understandably, parents might struggle to identify the difference between experimentation and abuse. It can feel overwhelming and confusing for a parent who is trying to figure out how to provide their kid with the appropriate tools to combat potential substance abuse.
Luckily, parents do not have to navigate this alone.
Let’s talk about red flags that your teen could be displaying, how to foster open communication with your teen, and when to bring in a professional substance abuse counselor in Atlanta to assist with supporting your teen and family.
Red Flags of Substance Abuse
There are several red flags that your teen may be showing which signal that their use has extended past typical adolescent experimentation. The following are just a few red flags of substance abuse to look out for:
- Frequency of use: Do you suspect somewhat regular use? Is it daily, weekly, monthly? If there tends to be a pattern and you suspect that substance use has become more regular, this is often a sign that a habitual problem may be developing.
- ADHD, depression, anxiety: Substance use is often used as a way to cope with hardships. Teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), or other learning differences are more likely to use substances.
- Concern or change in peer group: Look at who they spend time with. A teen’s friends and peer group are their biggest influence.
- Change in appearance
- Loss of interest in activities
- Lack of motivation
- Lying/stealing/increased secrecy
- Unexplained need for money
- Overly defensive manner
- Sudden changes in mood
How to Talk to Your Teen About Substance Use
If you are concerned that your teen could potentially be abusing substances, there are several things you can do to support them. First, communicate with your spouse or other parents regarding your concerns. Do they share the same concerns? What boundaries do other parents feel comfortable drawing and enforcing if a teen is indeed using substances?
It is important that parents are seen by a child as a united front, and that the parents have the same expectations of their teen. This provides consistency and fosters a feeling of safety and security in the family unit.
When speaking with your teen, listen as much as you talk – don’t do all the talking! Making the environment relaxed and not one-sided will foster open communication and conversations. Practice using empathy, and validate your teen, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what they’re saying. Validating their feelings does not mean that you agree with them.
Make attempts to spend time with your teen. Yes, they will probably roll their eyes and make excuses to do anything else. But teens notice and internalize when parents stop asking or attempting to spend time with them. Ask to spend time with them, and follow through with it. Your teen will be annoyed, but their feelings won’t be hurt.
When to Bring In a Professional Substance Abuse Counselor
The good news is you don’t have to go through this alone. Professionals are available to assist during any stage of teen substance use.
Teen counselors are able to support parents by providing parent coaching, assisting with identifying useful boundaries and providing communication skills to enforce those boundaries. Counselors are also able to provide a safe place for teens to talk, enhance any motivation that they already have, and assist with identifying changes they want to make and how to make them.
It’s time to involve a professional when you begin having concerns or need to ask questions. Early intervention is key! The greatest chance for success is when the issue is addressed before it becomes a problem.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Atlanta, GA
At Atlanta Specialized Care, our licensed substance abuse counselors take a holistic perspective – considering your child’s health, family, school, friendships, and all the other aspects of their life. We are here to support your teen and family, and we can assist in creating a plan to move forward.
To learn more about our group therapy and individual teen counseling services, or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (770) 815-6853. We look forward to serving you and your family.