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10 best ways to deal with your troubled teen with or without teen alcoholism

Teens are difficult to raise. It is a time when their behavior is impulsive, they are likely to take risks, and they are separating from their parents in their fight for independence. These years are difficult for all parents. However, a troubled young man destroys a family. All family members lose out unless parents use effective strategies to give themselves and their adolescent the help they need to make a difference.

Many times, teen substance abuse is the immediate problem that their troubled teens grapple with. Alcoholism and drug abuse among adolescents must be addressed first. Drug abuse and teen alcohol abuse is too dangerous to ignore. Once the adolescent is sober, it is important to assess what other problems are present that may be behind the substance abuse (depression, anxiety, etc.).

Here is an example of an extreme case from my practice:

YL was a 16-year-old boy in my practice who showed very little respect for his parents. He abused drugs and alcohol, did poorly in school, and eventually ran away. He was detained by the police in a different city where he was caught urinating on a building. His parents sent him to a teen camp in another country where he did better in a highly structured environment where limits were strictly enforced.

He learned impulse control skills in this type of environment, which helped him after the program ended. Of course, not all teenagers are that difficult. His parents had to learn the strategies I described below to help with the family situation when he returned.

Here are the top 10 ways to deal with a youth with or without teen substance abuse problems:

  1. If there is substance abuse in adolescents (either adolescent alcoholism or adolescent drug abuse), it is important to take your adolescent to a medical professional who is familiar with addiction treatment (most family doctors and Pediatricians are familiar with a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction would also be a great option). A doctor can help determine the level of abuse to determine if detoxification or rehabilitation is necessary.
  2. Clear boundaries must be established. For example, if there is substance abuse in a teenager and your teenager relapses, there should be a clear plan of action (return to a 12-step program, take prescription drugs, etc.), not have a car or cell phone, or go out freely with friends even your teenager has proven to be on the road to recovery.
  3. Negotiate with your teen the consequences for not following curfews, using drugs or alcohol, increasing bills for texting, missing classes, or performing poorly in school. Make sure these consequences are clear, whether the internet, cell phone, or car is being taken away.
  4. Be a good role model. If you drink and drive, you can expect your child to do the same. If your child sees drinking and verbal abuse, you are setting a pattern for your teen to emulate. If you lie to your teenager, he or she will learn to lie. On the contrary, if you are honest and fair with your child, this will have a positive influence.
  5. Get involved in your teen’s life. Ask who your teenager’s friends are. Know what your teen’s interests are. What kind of music does your child like? What are your favorite subjects in school? What TV shows are they watching? Your favorite YouTube videos?
  6. Keep your teen in structured activities like sports and music. Participating in a sport or learning to play a musical instrument is healthy and builds good self-esteem. Too long unstructured is not your teenager’s friend.
  7. Eat dinner together as a family. Eating as a family results in less substance abuse among teens.
  8. Talk to your teenager in an open and calm way. Yelling or lecturing will make your teen turn off.
  9. Praise any positive progress your teen makes. Your teen is still seeking your approval even though you will never admit it.
  10. Be your teenager dad, not your friend. Your teen needs you to be consistent but firm in helping him get through this time of emotional turmoil.

At the beginning of my psychiatric practice, I observed that parents who behaved more like friends of their adolescent than parents had the most troublesome children. Your teen needs loving parents who treat him with respect and are able to set appropriate limits.

Stay involved. Be open in your communication with your teen. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior. Don’t ignore substance abuse. Be loving. Have fun as a family. Your teen needs you more than ever in this dance of separating from you.

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