How to Reduce Your Teen’s Risk of Addiction

We do not want to believe that our teenage children will abuse any substance that is addictive, but we also know that the likelihood of this increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by grade 12, about two-thirds of students will have tried alcohol; nearly half of all high school students report trying cigarettes, and two in 10 have used prescription drugs without a prescription.

While substance use is a problem for all adolescents, some in particular will be at higher risk of developing addiction . Here is what Dr. Rose Wesche, a researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Virginia Institute of Technology, told the New York Times about risk factors in youth:

“I think we know there are internal, social and environmental reasons why some adolescents are more vulnerable to excessive drinking and risky drinking,” said Dr. Wesche. “Everything from your genes to your relationships with your parents and peers to things in your environment such as having alcohol.”

But there are some things that parents can do to reduce this risk for their teens.

Help teens develop a sense of self-efficacy

When Jessica Lahey, author of Addiction Vaccination : Raising Healthy Children in a Culture of Addiction , told her 14-year-old son that they would move to the new state just as he was about to go to high school, she realized. that the move itself could put him at a higher risk of addiction. Lahi, a recovering alcoholic, writes for the New York Times that she knew the genetic component plus this stressful transition and the loss of much of his social support system would put him at even greater risk.

So Lehi writes that she began to develop a sense of self-efficacy in him:

Self-efficacy, as defined by psychologist Albert Bandura , is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed; regulate your thoughts, emotions and life; and deal with problems positively. Self-efficacy is also the foundation of many other positive qualities, including resilience, resilience, resilience, and perseverance. Self-efficacy is what gives children a sense of control, free will, and hope, even when the world around them seems out of control.

On the other hand, people with a low sense of their own effectiveness tend to be pessimistic, inflexible, give up quickly, have low self-esteem, display learned helplessness, become depressed, and feel fatalistic and hopeless. It’s no coincidence that people who exhibit these traits are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate these negative feelings.

Children develop self-efficacy, self-esteem, and competence not only because they are told they did a good job at something, but instead build on it by trying new things, solving new problems, experiencing some setbacks, trying again and succeeding. … Give them age-appropriate tasks or responsibilities to take on responsibility to push them towards new successes that they can be proud of.

We also should not overdo it with our praise, but when we did offer it, we must have the habit of praising the efforts they have made to achieve the results of their work. In practice, it goes something like this: “I am proud that you come to Zoom every day and work hard, even during a pandemic,” rather than “Well done by taking this test!”

Children with a strong sense of self-efficacy are more likely to communicate openly with their parents and better resist peer pressure, which reduces their risk of substance use and dependence.

Surround your teens with a support system

It is true that when children reach a certain age, you cannot make friends for them the same way you once did when planning to meet the children in preschool whose parents you liked the most. However, if they feel isolated due to a move, a change of school, or simply because they find it difficult to make friends, there are a few things you can do to help: Read more about it here .

And while peers play an important role in a teen’s life, having a strong support system at home is still vital. Maintain a high level of interaction with them. Talk about their friendships, how they use social media, and what they think of school – in other words, stay with them, even if they rely less on you than they used to.

Make sure you model a healthy lifestyle yourself

Children have been known to do the same as we do, not by what we say. The best way to raise a disrespectful asshole is to be a disrespectful asshole yourself. The best way to raise a child who tries his best to help others is to do just that. And this is no different.

Modeling healthy lifestyles, both in terms of your own substance use and the focus you place on self-care, physical and mental health, will send all sorts of signals that they will pick up throughout the course. their childhood.

Be aware of the warning signs of substance use and abuse.

Finally, it is important to pay close attention if you suspect that they may be using illegal or addictive substances. According to Patrick Cronin, addiction specialist at Ark Behavioral Health, depending on the substance they use, the actual warning signs can vary quite a bit, but there are some universal things to look out for.

“I usually tell families that isolation is a serious warning sign,” says Cronin. “If your child, teenager, or young adult has tended to be very busy before, be it sports or whatever, and you start to see them sort of fall out of it and stop being interested in things they were interested in before.” , this is something to look out for and worry about.

Other signs may include increased fatigue, weight loss, and significant mood changes. As for these mood changes: If, for example, you worry about them and ask them about these changes in a loving and supportive tone, and they react explosively, this is a red flag.

“If they are very defensive and very annoyed about what they are asked to do, it’s usually because they feel so guilty that they jump on it,” says Cronin. “I’ve seen this a lot and it can be a very strong warning sign that something might be happening.”

Once you recognize (or suspect) a problem, Cronin stresses the importance of seeking professional help sooner rather than later.

“Parents will turn to me when they’re at that critical juncture, when things should be so bad, and they need help,” says Cronin. But early referral – when you suspect you are seeing some warning signs or need help figuring out next steps – can be critical to giving your teen the care and support they need.

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