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Love or Enable? How to Tell the Difference with Your Teen Addict


Image by kphotographer via Flickr

For many of us who are parents of teen addicts, our first and foremost concern is their wellbeing. If a child needs help getting something done, any parent would feel obligated to help. After all, isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

Yet helping your child no matter the circumstance when they suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction may not always be the right thing to do. It’s easy to forget that, although they are still your child, your son or daughter is becoming an adult, and, as an adult, must be capable of caring for themselves—especially if they have a drug or alcohol addiction problem. Certain behaviors, such as denial, lying, and being manipulative are symptoms of addiction, and thus must be dealt with differently than symptoms of other chronic diseases.

Your teenage child may ask to borrow your car or even money, which you allow because of your sense of responsibility and care as a parent. However, the parent may turn into an enabler when doing things for their child that they ought to be doing for themselves. Rather than letting the child experience the consequences of his or her actions, the parent comes in between like a shield. Allowing this to happen only creates further problems down the road, especially for teenage addicts who might engage in shoplifting, drug possession, or other trouble with the law.

You might feel guilty if you don’t immediately help your child when they face such problems, but doing so can potentially harm your child in the long run. They might continue to engage in these activities, and your enabling will only facilitate the continuation of the behavior. We know it’s difficult to leave behind the role of parent when you’ve been caring for your child since they were young, so here are a few tips to make it easier:

Don’t Forget to Listen

It’s often difficult to come to terms with the fact that your child is an addict. You might want to help them with whatever they ask with the hopes that the problem will just go away. But sometimes, rather than enable their behavior, it’s better to just listen. When your child comes to you, listen to what they have to say. Maybe they will open up about their addiction; maybe they’ve already tried but were met with unacceptance. Listening to your child and accepting what they have to say can prevent future problems.

Be Open and Honest

If your teenager comes to you for help, whether it’s for money or for transportation, you need to be honest and firm. You can still be kind when refusing to help them; simply tell them the truth about why you don’t believe it’s a good idea. Even if your teen comes up with a variety of reasons why they need help, from stories to outright lies, remember to keep calm and remain firm.

Sometimes to Love is to Say No

Teen addicts are not only driven by their addiction, but by a rebellious nature that’s common in teenage years. So when your child accuses you of not loving him or her because you refused to provide help, stick to being honest: remind them that you do love them, and that you won’t help them in any way that might make them fall victim to their addiction disease.

You can even suggest a visit to a local addiction treatment facility, such as the 12-step treatment program offered by CASA Recovery. Tell your child that spending time and money on treatment will be most beneficial to them in the long run.

Take Care of Yourself

Avoid blaming yourself for the addiction problems your child faces. Stay hopeful not only for your teen, but for yourself. Remember that it’s ok to ask for help, especially from people who have faced the same issue. Connect with our team at CASA Recovery and we’ll help you and your loved one emerge victorious from the diseases of alcoholism and drug addiction. We know how difficult it is to watch your teen struggle with addiction and substance abuse, so feel free to give us a call anytime when you need help. With our holistic addiction treatment approach, you’ll be able to see your child break free from addiction.

Visit us in San Juan Capistrano, CA today to see if our Orange County addiction treatment facility is right for you. We’re happy to help anyone in the Southern California area and beyond!

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