Substance Abuse And Teens: Interview with Cathy Taughinbaugh

quote addiction pain applies to teen substance abuseIf you’re a parent and you worry that your teen has a substance abuse problem, then you’ve come to the right place.

Today I’m talking with parent coach, Cathy Taughinbaugh about adolescent drug and alcohol experimentation, which can be tempting for teens.

As parents, we want to keep our kids safe so that they can find their way to adulthood and live their best possible life!

Even though I have a young child who is not in that arena right now, this information can be a heads up for what is coming.

Being informed can help a parent be more prepared for the adolescent years.

An Insightful Q & About Substance Abuse And Teens

Q: What can parents do to help teens stay healthy and away from substances like drugs and alcohol?

Cathy:  Karen, that is a great question; this is an issue for way too many families. There are definitely things parents can do to intervene early and keep kids safe.

First, talk to your child often about the dangers of experimenting with substances. Be calm and positive and ask open-ended questions that promote discussion.

Be sure to acknowledge when your child makes good decision with things like their choice of friends, study habits, activities, and helpful attitude.

teen substance abuse is hard on parents as well as kidsMany of our kids feel stress because of the demands placed on them, so taking an empathetic and compassionate approach helps.

Do your best to keep the lines of communication open.

Kids are not going to listen to their parents if every conversation becomes an argument, so be the person that your child can trust.

If you discover that your child has started experimenting, the first question to ask is why. Try to discover what is motivating them to want to use.

Q: What are some reasons that teens abuse substances like drugs or alcohol?

Cathy: There are many reasons. They are as individual and unique as the person.

But here are five risk factors to consider when it comes to teen substance abuse:

  1. Family history of addiction or alcoholism. This greatly increases your child’s risk of developing a problem
  2. Childhood trauma. Some psychologists feel that is one of the main factors behind substance use.
  3. Poor environment. If your child lives with drug or alcohol abuse, they may be more inclined to use.
  4. Mental illness or neurological issues.  Issues such as bipolar or ADHD increase their likelihood of using drugs or abusing alcohol.
  5. Early Use. Most people who have an addiction started using early in their life.

Beyond that, our culture’s social media saturation and instant gratification make some children feel entitled.  The pressure to succeed in school can create a feeling of stress and unhappiness for our kids. This pressure can motivate a child to turn to drugs or alcohol to feel better.

Q: What are the signs of substance abuse that parents should look for?

Cathy: Sometimes our teens’ unusual behavior is just normal teen angst, while other times it may be an indication that your child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Some signs to consider are :

  • behavioral issues at home or school
  • a change in personal appearance
  • health issues
  • a change in personal habits or friends.

It is important, as a parent, to intervene early. The longer your child is experimenting with substances, the more trouble they can find themselves in. The sooner you can motivate your child to live a healthier life, the better!

Q: How can parents help teens feel happier so they won’t be as interested in drugs and alcohol?

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addictino is human connetion.Cathy: That’s another important question!

Consistently talking to your child in a positive way (about everything, not just friends and substance issues) can be helpful.

Be respectful of your child when you communicate with them.

Appreciate their unique personality.

When your child is struggling in some area, it doesn’t help to continually notice what they are doing wrong.

Instead, notice what they are doing right.

Compliment and acknowledge their good behavior on a regular basis.  

There are some things that aren’t so helpful when talking to your child such as lecturing, labeling your child (for example, “You are so lazy!”), blaming, taking sides, or frequently asking closed questions with only yes or no answers. Plus…asking closed questions makes a child feel like they are being interrogated rather than having a discussion.

It also helps to let your child know that you understand how they are feeling.

Share a time when you were young and had the same feelings that your child is experiencing. Explain to them how you solved the problem.

This lets them know that you aren’t just their parent, but that you are a human being with similar feelings. It lets them know you understand, have empathy, and compassion.

Provide opportunities for your child to pursue outside activities that they enjoy, like sports, music, or art. Support your child for who he or she is.

Be clear and follow through on your boundaries.  

Take care of yourself; you have to “fill up your own cup” before you can help your child with everything in their life. While experimentation can feel scary to parents, know that when you take care of yourself first, you will feel happier, which helps your child in the long run.

Have compassion in all of your dealings with your child.

Approaching your child with compassion gives you the best chance of keeping your relationship strong and keeping them away from substances.

Cathy TaughinbaughBio: Ten years ago, Cathy Taughinbaugh helped her daughter through a tough road out of drug addiction.

As a parent, Cathy had to learn how to be there for her daughter and how to support her through the recovery process.

As a result of her journey with her ownchild’s drug use, Cathy, a former educator founded CathyTaughinbaugh.com and became a certified parent coach in order to help other families struggling with substance use. 

The outreach that Cathy has created provides a forum for those that need support to care for themselves or their loved ones.

Cathy’s personal coaching, numerous articles, resources and eBooks are available, providing inspiration to all out there who are going through same or similar challenges in their lives. In her free time, Cathy volunteers for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Parent Coaching program. Cathy lives with her husband in northern California. 

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