Prepare to Take Action
If you’ve just discovered or have reason to believe your child is using nicotine, alcohol or drugs, the first thing to do is sit down and take a deep breath. We know this is scary, but you have resources to help you prepare for the important conversation ahead. Some brief preparation now can lay a foundation for more positive outcomes ahead.
- Gather any evidence
- Have a discussion with a counselor or an educated, trusted friend
- Get on the same page with your significant other
- Expect anger and resolve to remain calm
- Be prepared to discuss any addiction in your family
- Establish clear rules and consequence
- Plan small realistic goals for conversations
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Discovering that your child could be using substances stirs up a lot of emotion. The best way to find out what’s going on, and to begin helping, is to start talking. Normally, it will take time and many conversations to get to points of clarity and before your child is ready to seek help. It is important to learn how to have a conversation instead of a confrontation.
- Create a safe place to talk
- Remain calm and resist the urge or overreact
- Express how much you care
- Ask open-ended questions
- Give lots of positive feedback
- Listen more than you talk
- Thank your child for being willing to talk with you
Practice Positive Reinforcement
In households where a child is using substances, it can be easy to focus on everything the child is doing wrong and respond with lectures, punishment and confrontation. Unfortunately, this often only escalates the problems.
Instead, it is important to focus on what your child is doing right. This sounds simple, but it can make an enormous difference. When you notice the positive things your child is doing and reinforce them, there’s a stronger chance you’ll see those behaviors again.
- Develop a list of behaviors you would like to reinforce
- Choose a reinforcer that will be appreciated by your child
- Celebrate the small successes