I have spent a large part of my career working with youth with addiction issues. I have had the opportunity to see first hand how challenging it can be. I have a great deal of respect for any parent who has to endure experiencing a child who is "out-of-control" with an addiction. Before I get into the thick of this topic I want to define what I mean by "out-of-control".
There are many mental health disorders in society that control plays a large role. The most common in my experience is anxiety. Anxiety is a mental health disorder that has the potential to manifest through over controlling one's environment and/or the people within it. Anxiety usually tends to have an underbelly of fear. This fear will be different for everyone based on their life experiences and belief systems.
How does this all relate?
When a parent is dealing with a child who is "out-of-control" they become anxious and therefore attempt to alleviate their anxiety by controlling their environment (addicted child). In my experience this makes things worse because when we are being controlled it exacerbates our anxiety and has the potential to lead to increased addictive behaviours. It is a perpetrating cycle that can be very difficult to get out of. Often times people who are addicted do not possess essential coping skills and using substances is their way of dealing with life. If you provide them with one choice (quit using) their anxiety levels will rise and they are more likely to keep using.
Here are 5 tips to help you support your child through this awkward time:
1) Provide choices and lower your expectations - No one likes to be told what to do or feel as if they are cornered to make a choice. Allowing someone to make choices for themselves will give them a sense of control. This is what fosters change in people and empowers them to take charge of their life. Expectations are also anxiety provoking. They tell someone that they are not going to measure up if they don't meet this "quota" you have placed upon them. If your goal is to get from A-Z then please don't make the expectation to get to Z right away. Try getting to B first, then C, etc. This makes it seem a lot less overwhelming and change is more likely to occur. This will take planning on your part because you need to map out what ABCD... all are. That way you can be prepared when your child tries to challenge you or test your limits.
2) Don't try and control them - sounds counter-intuitive to how society defines the traditional role of a parent but I am telling you controlling doesn't work! regardless of your controlling efforts they will still be addicted to substances. You are merely trying to control the symptom of a much larger problem. You need to get to the root cause of why they are using in the first place. What is their main cause of anxiety in their life?
3) Be consistent - this is the number one thing lacking in most cases. All too often I hear about parents who give into their child's tantrum, not follow through on a consequence, and/or use empty threats. The more of this that occurs the less respect you will have from your child and less likely they are going to get on board with your expectations. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY!!!! Parent first, friend second. Yes there will be times when your child doesn't like you... this is ok and part of being a parent.
4) Understand it is a symptom of anxiety - This is an anxious time for everyone involved. The best way to teach your child to do something is to do it yourself and model the desired behaviour directly to them. This means you must be in control as often as humanly possible. You need to model what it looks like to be in control of yourself. This is a good time to explore your beliefs about parenting and control. Is control your go-to parenting style? If so, where did you learn this, is it effective, and do you want to continue with this style of parenting?
5) Be a leader NOT a manager - Here's the difference: A leader will assess the needs of the people involved and make a decision with everyone's input. You need to possess objectivity, compromise, and empathy to be a good leader. A manager is someone who will make decisions and control the environment based on what they deem appropriate. There is a huge difference in these two styles and if you have ever been an employee please ask yourself what type of boss you would prefer to have? This is no different for a parent/child relationship. You do not need to control your child, you need to support them by asking them what they need and in this same conversation you get to tell them what you need as a parent.
I hope this helps and if you know someone who is dealing with this please pass this on as it may be just what they need to get them through this very tough time.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call me.