Parents normally have a very hard time coping with a drug-addicted child, for any number of reasons. First of all, they may have done drugs themselves and they know where drug use can lead. Second of all, they may feel like their child is apparently healthy and happy and therefore the idea that drug use or addiction is occurring doesn’t really make any sense to them. And finally, they simply don’t want to confront what drug addiction may actually mean for their child’s health and future. However, ignoring the problem is not only completely ineffective in handling it, but it may also push the child farther away from his parents–which will make it much harder to get him the help he desperately needs.
What to Say to an Addicted Child
When dealing with an addicted child, one would do very well to recognize that admitting to oneself that they have a problem is quite a difficult step to take, so admitting to others–especially one’s parents–that they have a problem is nothing short of monumental. By making this admission they are actually opening a door to let their parents help them, an opportunity that absolutely must be taken advantage of. Any assumption that a child can make it through drug use and addiction on their own because “I did” is akin to releasing the child to a game of Russian roulette. So the first thing a parent needs to do when their child admits they are addicted is to listen. It may be very difficult to do this with the many emotions and questions swimming around in your head, but you must calmly and patiently listen to what your child has to say. You can thank them for telling you, and even encourage them to continue talking until they admit the full extent of their problem so that you understand exactly what drug or drugs they are using, how much, and for how long–information that will be incredibly valuable in determining what sort of help they will need. There is a marked difference between being supportive of an addicted child and condoning their drug use. Without blaming your child for using or becoming addicted to drugs, you can also make it very clear that while you will not tolerate further drug use you are very supportive of their recovery. Your love and support of your child through this difficult time is very easily perceived and can actually make a world of difference.
When you have gathered data from your child about their drug addiction problems, it is important to recognize the difference between helping them take responsibility for these problems and blaming yourself for these problems. There are always a million “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts that come to mind when you recognize any problem or difficulty your child has encountered in their life, but this speculation about the past will not change the present situation in any way. The bottom line is that your child made a decision and is now struggling with the consequences–you need to focus on how you can help them.
The Next Step
Once your child has admitted that they are addicted and has explained the full extent of their drug use problems, you can ask them what they need or want to do about them. They may indicate that they need or want help in the form of addiction treatment, in which case you can help them to find the addiction treatment that will work best to their own personal needs. On the other hand, they may simply say they don’t know what to do about their problem or they are worried about entering addiction treatment. In this case, you can point out the purpose of addiction treatment–to help them address and resolve all of the causes and effects of their drug use and build the foundation for a healthy, happy and productive future–and help them to see that there are a wide variety of treatment options designed to meet a wide variety of needs. Whether they immediately agree to enroll in a treatment program or balk at the opportunity, your stance needs to remain the same: you firmly oppose further drug use while firmly supporting their fight for full and lasting sobriety. And finally, the most important thing to do is remain hopeful. Children really can overcome their drug addiction problems and move forward into healthier, happier futures with hopeful, persistent encouragement all around them.