Written by Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed.
We are in the middle of an epidemic of addiction and overdoses. There’s no denying that – and it is terrifying for parents and grandparents. Most of us grew up with the slogan “Just say No!” – or with DARE programming – which were well intentioned efforts but didn’t always work. I have good news, however – there is A LOT you can do to reduce the risk of your children and teens entering into the hell of addiction.
Working with families that includes one member who is in recovery or perhaps is still drinking too much alcohol or using too many substances is a passion of mine – and at one point I wondered what families need to know in order to protect themselves. Actually, there is a very long list of ways you can help the young people in your life, and I am just going to hit the highlights here. Please call me and we can talk about what else you can do for your family!
Here are the most important steps you can take:
1. Lock up prescription medications. When children are young, most of us keep medications of all kinds away from them to avoid poisoning. It turns out that this is something we should continue to do as they grow up. A startling number of young people begin experimenting with substances because they found medications around their house or a friend’s house and tried them. These might be pain pills, cough syrups, or medications for conditions such as ADHD. Lock them all up, and if you have medications around that you are no longer using, please talk to your pharmacist about how to dispose of them properly. Going along with this – teach your children and teens to never take a medication that has not been prescribed for them, even if their friends sure them it will be ok.
2. Get into recovery from your own addictions. When a parent, grandparent, or other caregiver who has a substance use, alcohol use, gambling or other addiction problem works on their own recovery, that process helps protect children and teens in their life from addiction later on. I also work with individuals who want to reduce or quit using substances, so if you think this might apply to you, please call and we can do an assessment and talk about options for treatment.
3. Get to know their friends. Friendships matter – and no matter how old your teen is, it’s important to know who their friends are and have a plan for monitoring and supervising them in real life AND online.
4. Seek family counseling. Reducing family conflict and improving family communication are necessary to protecting against substance use. Family counseling provides a safe, confidential space to address everything from the trauma you or your children may have experienced to the ways in which your family stays connected and sets rules and expectations around behavior. Family counseling is specifically helpful when one of the adults in the family has an addiction or is in recovery – because we know that longterm recovery is closely tied to supportive, healthy family relationships.
As I said, there’s a long list, and I’d love to talk about all of the possible steps you can take to build resilience and protect your children and teens. Other steps include connecting with a faith community, helping your children and teens figure out their meaning and purpose, and encouraging them to get involved in hobbies, sports, or groups that give them a sense of connection and enjoyment. If this is a topic of interest to you, reach out and we can talk about individual, couples, or family counseling options related to addiction and recovery — and you can also let me know if you would be interested in participating in a support group or attending an information session to learn more about how to reduce the risk of addiction in our young people.
If you would like to know more about family counseling or talk to me about your specific situation, please feel free to call or email. Phone consultations are free, and I will offer a 50% discount for the first two sessions scheduled as a result of this promotion.
Article was written and sponsored by Resident in Counseling Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services