Article | March 2018

The Addicted Teenager

What parents can do to help children with addiction

If your teenager is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you're not alone. Help and support is out there, both for you and your child. Find out how to get treatment for your child and help for yourself. And learn how to support your child's recovery in the best possible way.

Treatment for your child

There are many types of treatment available. Local recovery organizations can be effective. They're less costly than in-patient treatment, and your child can stay at home. Hospital care is pricey, and might not work any better than local resources. There may be reasons to choose in-patient care, though. Your teen may need to be removed from his or her peer group at first. Your teenager may also have a preference. Investigate all the options. Ask for referrals from other parents whose teens have completed treatment. It's helpful to talk to other parents and their teenagers.

Help for you

Life with a teenage addict can be confusing, lonely, and scary. You might feel angry at yourself or your teen. You might struggle with guilt or anxiety. It’s important to come to terms with your own thoughts and feelings. This can help you better support your child's recovery. Use community resources for drug and alcohol information. Find other parents to talk to through self-help groups like Al-Anon. Your Employee Assistance Program can refer you to local resources. And be kind to yourself. Remember to get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise.

Be supportive

Your child will be in a tricky spot between addiction and sobriety during and after treatment. If your teen is in treatment or a self-help group, support his or her efforts. Get involved with the group, or a related group if possible. Be honest while discussing addiction and behavior issues with your teen. But try not to blame yourself, your teen, or your teen’s peers. If your teen is trying to change his or her behavior, recognize the effort.

Set standards

Be clear about your expectations. Your teen will look to you to reinforce his or her decision to stay sober. If you decide to set stricter standards, discuss them with your teen. You don't want your child to feel punished, or to be dishonest with you.

Be a role model

Think about your own relationship with drugs and alcohol. Changing your own habits sends a supportive message to your teen. He or she will know that you're willing to stand with him or her in recovery.

Staying sober also shows your child that people can feel a range of emotions without chemicals. Real life, without drugs or alcohol, can be a challenging, positive experience.

mother and son talking about behavior issues in group setting

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.