Teens today face a tremendous amount of stress, causing some of them to turn to drugs or alcohol. Even teens that aren’t exceptionally overwhelmed might try drugs because they want to experiment or because they feel pressured to do so. This can not only be scary and stressful for parents but it can also cause addiction in some cases. While treatment can be effective, it is important to know that aftercare is just as important to your teen’s recovery journey. Read on for the top tips on how to support your teen and help him or her maintain sobriety.
Stick to the After-Treatment Plan
The most important thing you can do is stick to the after-treatment plan and maintain sobriety. Some healing occurred while your teen was in treatment, but it’s when he or she steps back out into the real world, the true test begins. Many people relapse within the first six months of leaving rehab.
Make sure you have a firm understanding of the after-treatment plan. The plan should include after-treatment support including counseling or meetings, how often checkups should happen, contact information for people who can help, steps to take if faced with a trigger, and coping skills to rely on when faced with a stressful situation.
Keep a Positive Attitude
It can be disheartening to watch your teen go through the struggles that accompany overcoming an addiction. The last thing he or she needs is negativity around the house. You are his or her safe place – the ones he/she can be honest with even when feeling the worst.
Your teen’s life is not going to completely turn around over the course of weeks, months, or even a year. Yes, treatment helps, but there is still a long way to go. Your positivity will play a major role in your teen’s recovery. Knowing that you are there to lift up your teen, say the right thing, and just be the encouragement that he or she needs during such a confusing time can mean the world to your teen.
Set Rules and Boundaries
In the end, you are still the parent. While your teen needs support and positivity around the house, rules and boundaries are a must as well. Teens need to know what they can and cannot do, even if they think they are old enough to make their own decisions.
When a teen first comes out of rehab, he or she is vulnerable. While your rules and boundaries may seem too strict, your teen will depend on them especially while they maintain sobriety. Make the rules clear and known for everyone in the home. Your teen should know where they are allowed to be, who they are allowed to spend time with, and how often they should check in. Be specific. You might consider creating a contract that clearly spells out the rules and the consequences if they are broken. It gives your teen the power to choose right from wrong and helps you know where they stand when faced with difficult choices, even in their vulnerable state.
Teens want their space and that’s normal, but when your teen suffers from addiction, they need more supervision than they want to admit. Because of your teen’s vulnerable state, you need to be the accountability that your child needs. Just getting out of rehab is not the time to let him or her make their own decisions. Your guidance can help your teen stay on the right path to maintain sobriety. Know where and with whom your teen is spending his or her time.
If your teen balks at the supervision, it could be a good time to elicit outside support. Find someone that your teen trusts that isn’t mom or dad. It could be an older cousin, aunt, or trusted adult friend, for example. Sometimes, an outsider can provide the insight that your teen needs but doesn’t want to hear from you.
Maintain Sobriety with a Healthy Lifestyle
Maintaining sobriety means staying healthy. If your teen doesn’t take care of himself, he or she will be less able to fight those cravings when they occur. A healthy lifestyle includes eating right and staying active. The whole family can play a part in this process by eating healthy and staying active together.
Try to make meals a family affair. Everyone can sit down together and enjoy a healthy meal together; this will also give your teen the chance to communicate with the family in a positive way. Encourage your teen to get enough sleep and to put aside some time for rest, relaxation, and healthy recreation.
Learn to Recognize Signs of a Relapse
Understanding the signs of a relapse can help you catch one at the onset, rather than when your teen is too far into the process to get him out on your own. The most common signs of a relapse include:
- Avoiding therapy appointments
- Mood swings
- Reconnecting with friends that used substances with your teen
- Defensiveness whenever the words addiction, sobriety, drugs or alcohol come up
- Sneaking out of the house
Reach Out for Help When Needed
It’s not a sign of weakness to need help. Addiction is a serious disease that has many different faces. Not only does your teen need support, but you do too. Find someone that you can trust, whether it’s a family member, friend, or medical professional and lean on them. Let them know what you are doing and listen to their advice. This isn’t a road you should travel on your own. It takes a village to raise kids when they are young and it continues to take a village when they experience troubles that are beyond what we can comprehend as parents.
Helping your teen maintain sobriety is a work in progress. It’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to be easy. Cut yourself and your teen some slack and make sure that you have the support necessary to get through the first six months, when the risk of relapse is the greatest.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.