A group of people sitting on the ground with a fallen injection while battling substance abuse.

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A group of people sitting on the ground with a fallen injection while battling substance abuse.

From Prevention to Recovery: A Parent's Guide to Child Substance Abuse

Medically reviewed by

Written by Riddhima Poddar

As a parent of addict, you want the best for your child. You want them to have access to the abundant opportunities out there, and there isn't anything that you wouldn't do to see them thrive.

It could then be concerning and equally agonising to suspect that your child might be treading down the path of substance abuse. 

This article will help you understand how you can prevent substance abuse in your child and how you can support them as they recover from addiction.

What is Addiction: Everything You Should Know as Parents of Addict  

Addiction, unlike the popular misconception, is not a choice. It is certainly not a result of moral failing or bad parenting. Addiction is a biopsychosocial disorder that is characterised by the compulsive use of substances despite the harmful consequences.

For parents of addict, grasping this definition is essential, as it illuminates the intricate nature of addiction and emphasizes the need for compassion and support over judgment. Acknowledging addiction as a disorder enables parents of addict to address their child's condition with empathy, leading to a more supportive and constructive approach to their recovery journey.

Spotting the Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Children

Recognizing the physical indicators of drug abuse is crucial for any parent of addict. These can range from neglecting personal hygiene, like skipping showers, not changing clothes, or forgetting to brush teeth, to more obvious signs such as memory issues, lack of focus, clumsiness, or slurred speech. Keep an eye out for sudden weight loss, red or watery eyes, unusual pupil size, frequent sniffing, or an unsteady gaze. Physical symptoms might also include excessive sweating, tremors, cold and sweaty hands, unexplained nausea, or vomiting.

Observing Behavioral Red Flags

Behavioral changes are also telling signs of addiction in children. This can manifest as unexpected emotional swings, deceit, missing key appointments, a drop in interest in hobbies, persistent fatigue or sadness, erratic eating habits, or overly animated behaviors and rapid speech that seems out of context.

Additional Indicators of Substance Issues

Be aware of significant shifts in your child's social circle, declining performance in school, strained relationships at home or personally, unusual requests for money, or the discovery of stolen funds.

Recognising Drug-Related Items

Identifying drug paraphernalia plays a pivotal role  any parent of addict in understanding if your child is experimenting with drugs. Paraphernalia can be disguised as mundane items or be unmistakably drug-related. Common items to watch for include small bags, loose pills, syringes, various types of pipes (made from materials like metal, wood, acrylic, glass, stone, or plastic), water pipes, clips for holding joints, tiny spoons, cone-shaped pipes for marijuana or hash, bongs, and rolling papers.

How can you Prevent your Child from getting Addicted to Substances?

The first step towards preventing addiction in children from experimenting with substances begins at home.

Have an Open Dialogue

Quench your child’s curiosity by talking to them about the different substances, their effects and subsequent risks. Ask for your child’s opinion and views on drugs and alcohol. Assure them that they can be honest with you. Your goal is not to scare them but to make them aware of how substance abuse could negatively impact what they want from life.

Your child might ask you about your drug use. Give them an authentic response. If you chose to not experiment with drugs, tell them your rationale. If you did do drugs, be open and share what your experience taught you. 

Lead by Example

‍If you drink or smoke, make it a point to do so responsibly around your child. Practice what you preach. Never drive while you are under the influence, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, don’t smoke if your child is in the room and ensure that you do not lose control of your senses- especially in front of your child. Children tend to observe their parents and model their behaviour accordingly. If you have a healthy relationship with cigarettes and alcohol, your child will likely develop a healthy relationship with these substances too. Managing addiction and parenting effectively means demonstrating responsible habits, which can significantly influence your child's perceptions and behaviors towards these substances.

In case you use illicit drugs, don’t store them in your house where your child can stumble upon them. Since children are impressionable, you do not want your child to grow up thinking that it is normal to do drugs.   

Establish Rules and Boundaries‍

To ensure that your teen has a healthy relationship with substance, communicate and establish clear rules and boundaries. For instance, leaving a gathering or a party where substances are in use. You can also work with them to arrive at an optimal quantity of alcohol that they can intake. In whose presence are they allowed to drink, if at all you permit that for your teen? Knowing what is acceptable can prevent your child from going astray. 

Warn about Peer Pressure

‍It is crucial that your child understands what peer pressure is. They should know how to conduct themselves under direct or indirect pressure without being influenced or swayed by their peers. Let them know that it is okay to say “no” and not follow the crowd. 

Be Mindful of the Stressors

‍Your child may become susceptible to substance abuse during major transitional phases in their lives, like moving to a new city or changing schools. These stressors could be present at home- parents who constantly fight, financial stress, and losing a loved one. Open up channels for your child to process and express their emotions in a healthy fashion by helping them identify what they are feeling.

Recognise Signs

‍In case your child is misusing substances, look for certain telltale signs. Has their hygiene deteriorated? Do you notice a sudden change in their friends, eating habits or sleeping patterns? Is there an unusual smell in their breath or clothing? 

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Talking to Your Kids on Substance Abuse 

Chatting early and often about drugs and alcohol can really make a difference in steering clear of substance abuse, embodying the essence of addiction and parenting. Kickstart these talks when your kiddos are young, tweaking the convo's depth to suit their age. This isn't just about giving them the lowdown; it's about opening a door, so they feel cool coming to you with any worries down the line.

Embracing Open Talks Over Lectures

Ditch the one-way lectures for a two-way chat street. This switcheroo turns your kid from a silent listener into an active chatter, tossing in questions and talking through the tough stuff without fear of getting judged. Keeping it real and relaxed is key to making sure they're all ears and totally tuned in.

Building a Circle of Trust

It's all about crafting a chill zone where your little one feels all the feels of safety to spill on any subject, booze and drugs included. This vibe of trust means they're more likely to hit you up for advice if they bump into any substance snags.

Leading with Heart When Trouble Hits

Stumble upon your child dabbling in substances? Lead with a hug, not heat. This keep-calm-and-carry-on method keeps the convo doors open and reminds them you're here to help, not just to lay down the law. Sure, you've gotta set some rules and dish out consequences, but wrapping it all in understanding and love is the secret sauce for a hopeful turnaround.

How can you Support your Child through their Battle with Addiction?

It is possible that your child may not even realise that their use of substances has spiralled out of control. For them to seek help and attain sobriety, they need the support of their family more than ever. 

Finding out that your child is addicted to substances could be extremely challenging. It could evoke feelings of guilt, inadequacy and incompetence in you as well as your child. Instead of feeling responsible and blaming yourself for your child’s predicament- over which neither of you had any control, you have to let your child know that their mistake changes nothing. 

Rebuild your Relationship

Understand that your addiction is a biological and psychological condition and that your child didn’t choose to get addicted. Do not distance yourself from your child, refuse to engage with them or be judgemental. Instead, communicate openly. You might notice that your child is irritable or moody. Know that it is not them but the addiction that is controlling how they respond to situations. You might find yourself being sarcastic, upset and irrational too. Catch yourself when these emotions get the better of you. 

This approach is important in addiction and parenting, as it creates an environment of understanding and support, rather than one of blame and isolation. Recognizing and addressing your own reactions and emotions is a vital part of the addiction and parenting journey, helping to maintain a strong and supportive relationship with your child through their recovery process.

Stay Connected with Your Child

It's crucial to be actively involved in your child’s life, even as they grow older and seek more independence. Attend their events and activities, and be a consistent source of emotional support. Regular conversations and showing interest in their daily life help maintain open communication. This approach also allows you to understand their social environment better, reinforcing your role not just as a parent but as a trusted confidant.

Use Positive Affirmations

‍Addiction could result in diminished self-confidence and self-esteem. It is vital that your child knows that you believe in them and their recovery even if they relapse and start over. It is a long journey, and they need to know that you don’t define them by their mistakes. Instead, encourage positive behaviours and coping strategies that they may adopt during their recovery. Positive affirmations paired with your faith in their journey could help your child develop a sense of camaraderie, which could significantly counter any negative emotions that may arise. 

Reinforce Ground Rules

‍It is crucial that your child knows what is and isn’t acceptable as they learn to restructure their lives during the treatment. Work on these rules together so that your child does not feel that they have lost their agency. These rules could include avoiding gatherings and parties with substances and disengaging with peers or friends who misuse substances. 

As much as your child needs your attention, support and care, you have to ensure that you do not enable their poor decisions by making excuses for them or blaming yourself. However, you do remember that your child is not at fault either. Recovery has its periods of ups and downs. As taxing as the process will be, do not run out of patience or lose hope. 

Understanding that your child’s addiction is a biological and psychological condition instead of a result of poor judgement could help reduce the stigma around it. Your faith in them could help them rebuild their self-worth and increase the likelihood of being in long-term recovery.

Overcoming Addiction in Children with Help from Cadabams

Cadabams offers tailored support and intervention strategies for families navigating the complexities of addiction and behavioral challenges in children and adolescents. With a comprehensive approach that includes therapy, counseling, and specialized programs, Cadabams is equipped to address a wide range of issues, providing the necessary tools and support for both children and parents. Engaging with Cadabams means accessing a network of professionals dedicated to fostering healthier family dynamics and supporting the emotional well-being of your child.

Seeking support for child addiction? Cadabams Anunitha's De-Addiction Centre specializes in helping young individuals overcome addiction. With 30+ years of experience, our team uses evidence-based and holistic approaches for effective treatment. Contact us at +91 96111 94949 to start the journey toward a healthier, happier life for your child.

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What is addiction in children?

Addiction in children is a biopsychosocial disorder characterized by the compulsive use of substances despite harmful consequences. It's not a choice or a result of moral failing or bad parenting.

How can I prevent my child from getting addicted to substances?

Preventing addiction begins at home with open dialogue about substances, their effects, and risks. Lead by example, establish clear rules and boundaries, educate about peer pressure, and be mindful of stressors in your child's life.

How can I talk to my kids about substance abuse?

Start conversations early, adjust the depth according to their age, and ensure it's a two-way dialogue. Create a safe environment where they feel comfortable discussing any topic, including drugs and alcohol.

What should I do if my child is addicted to substances?

Seek professional help immediately. Support your child's recovery process with understanding, patience, and love. Ensure open communication and involve them in seeking treatment options.

How can Cadabams help with addiction in children?

Cadabams offers tailored support and intervention strategies, including therapy, counseling, and specialized programs, to address addiction and behavioral challenges in children and adolescents, fostering healthier family dynamics and supporting the emotional well-being of your child.

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