After someone goes through rehab for an addiction, it’s common that they don’t know how to spend their time. Before recovery, spare time often went toward the addiction itself. Now that that’s no longer an option, your recovering teenager might feel like there’s nothing to do. Getting him or her involved in a productive activity can help them choose to use their time more wisely. Also, since an occupied and busy teen is less likely to have time for drugs, alcohol, or other harmful substances, an activity can be an important piece of the recovery process. Read on for a list of different types of healthy activities that your recovering teen might enjoy.
Sports and Exercise
One healthy way that your recovering teen can refocus his or her energies is to join a sport or take up some form of exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that young people get about 60 minutes of physical activity per day. If your teen joins a high school sport, that will provide a lot of exercise. It’s likely that your teen did not take good care of him- or herself when in the throes of the addiction, so this is a way for your teen to take control of his or her body in a healthy, productive way.
In addition, school sports can help encourage teens to stay away from drugs and alcohol. There are sometimes testing policies, where student athletes must test negative for all substances. The camaraderie between players is often full of positive interactions. Also, the students who play sports are generally not the students who are trying drugs at parties. If your teen is at all athletic, a sport, whether through the school or the community, is a good use of time.
Art or Cooking
A creative hobby can be great for a recovering teen. Many teens who have gotten mixed up in drugs or alcohol need to find a safe way to express themselves. One of the arts, whether visual, performance or musical, could be a great fit. Your teen could take art classes at school or at a community center. There are drama clubs, dance classes, music lessons, and many other ways to learn about the arts.
Cooking is another creative hobby that many recovering addicts fall in love with. Learning how foods can be combined is a way for recovering teens to not only pursue an enjoyable hobby but also develop skills that can help them later as they choose a career. Even if your teen isn’t interested in the culinary arts as a career choice, there’s something soothing about stirring, kneading, and chopping, so learning how to cook might be a good choice.
Many people who run into hard times find that helping others is an excellent way to spend their time. Volunteering gives teens the feeling of being needed, which is a great boost for their self-esteem. Feeling good about themselves can help them avoid the temptation of drugs and alcohol. In addition, they’ll be creating relationships with the people they’re helping as well as the people who are volunteering alongside them.
Talk to your teen about what type of organization might appeal to them. An adolescent who loves animals might enjoy volunteering at an animal shelter or a veterinarian’s office. One who likes small children might like to work in a church nursery or a daycare center. A teen who likes to spend time with their grandparents might like volunteering in a nursing home. There are also opportunities for adolescents to help build houses, to do handy work around the house for shut-ins, or to clean up parks and other public spaces.
Your recovering teen should have some social activities once he or she is out of the rehabilitation center. These can range from support group meetings to school activities to unstructured hangout time. The important thing to keep in mind is that your teen’s chosen companions should be kids who are not involved in drugs and alcohol. He or she might need some help joining new social groups because the friends they used to hang around with might still be entrenched in the addiction lifestyle.
Encourage your teen to join a club at school and to participate in various social events. Do keep in touch with his or her friends’ parents so you can be sure that your child is properly supervised as needed. You won’t likely be able to let him or her simply go off at will like they used to; you’ll need to keep close tabs on your child’s whereabouts and what they’re doing as you rebuild trust.
When someone is recovering from an addiction, it’s important that they learn to like spending time with themselves. Many times, drug use is the result of poor self-esteem and boredom. If your teen learns how to respect him- or herself and can remain entertained without having to resort to substances, that’s a big part of recovery. A group of friends is not always going to be available to spend time with your teen, so it’s vital that he or she has some activities to do on their own.
Talk to your recovering teen about what types of solitary activities might be beneficial and enjoyable. For example, your teen might like going for walks or bike rides, spending time training the family dog, tinkering with his or her computer, gardening, singing along to the radio, and other activities. Make a list of things your teen likes to do so they can refer to it. Sometimes when a teenager is bored, they can’t remember any of the activities that they enjoy; these are the times when they’re likely to turn to old, potentially harmful habits.
If your teen is in recovery, you are undoubtedly worried about his or her ability to stay clean. Know that getting him or her involved in an activity can help reduce the chances of a relapse. It’s also important to know the signs of a relapse so you can step in and take the correct action promptly. Talk to your teen’s substance abuse specialist or counselor so you know what to do and how to best encourage your specific child as he or she navigates the road ahead.
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.