Tips for Parents Dealing with Teens in Drug Rehab

My seventeen year old daughter was taken three weeks ago, unwillingly and unknowingly, to a drug rehab facility. The decision to send her away for help was heart-breaking, but not nearly as heart-breaking as the thought of seeing her in a few more years either dead or living a life that wasn’t even worth living anymore. This is not a “feel good” article, full of pretty sayings and promises. Those are written by people who have never been where a parent with a teen in drug rehab is walking. There is some good, but mostly, having a child in rehab is hard. The good comes later, but while they’re gone, don’t expect life to be great. The following tips for parents who are dealing with life while their teen is in drug rehab.

Do not allow your teen to manipulate you into bringing them home. You have given them a gift that can save their life. They may not like it in the beginning, especially if they didn’t want to go on their own, but it will get better for them as time goes by. They will cry, they will beg, they will yell, they will threaten, and they will do anything else that they know has worked in the past to get you to give in. Don’t do it. My daughter was never going to speak to me again when she was taken, but within 72 hours, she was talking and shortly after that, she was talking decently.

Do not think that your life is going to feel better, just because you know that your child is in a safe place. No matter how much strife and grief your teen has been bringing to your home and family prior to leaving for rehab, you are still going to miss them, especially if you are a mom. You are going to remember the good times before the drugs took your child over and you will cry, but as time goes by, you will cry less and one day, maybe you won’t cry at all.

Do not expect overnight miracles. Your teen is going to have to get through a period of time that they may feel terrible. While they are detoxing, their lives are going to feel unbearable at times, but they’ll make it. It takes time, though, so allow it to.

Learn all you can about their addiction, their drug of choice, and triggers that are common to relapse. By learning what you can, you are going to be in a better position when your teen comes home to both help them prevent relapse and to spot it easier if it does occur.

Take part in every family therapy or parent support group that is made available by the facility your child is in. We all have busy schedules to keep, but you really need to make time to go to these meetings. You are a family that has been in crisis and you need to find your way out. These types of groups and meetings are designed to help you do just that. You will also hear other families’ stories and understand that you really aren’t the only ones going through this.

Expect your child to go through different phases. He or she may feel terrible for a time, then really have a positive attitude, then get homesick, and the list goes on. It can change from day to day, so don’t think that just because one day your teen is angry that the next day he or she will be, too.

Expect your family to go through different phases. Just as your teen will be going through different phases, your family probably will, too. You will one day miss the teen indescribably, the next you may feel a time of relief knowing that they’re safe, you may go from hopeful to fearful. These, and other feelings, are all normal things that you are going to deal with.

Create a safety plan for your teen prior to their discharge and go over it with them. There must be very clear rules and expectations, as well as clear consequences and incentives. Put it on paper, so there is no confusion or argument on either side. This helps take the emotion out of the parenting,which in turn, will make your teen responsible for their own choices.

Do not make yourself accountable for your teen’s choices, but do think about your own. While you did not make the choice to put a drug into the body of your teen, there may have been choices that led up to that, which were yours. For example, my daughter is accountable for taking drugs, however, I am accountable for allowing her to hang out with people who were known drug users.

Do all you can to get the rest of your family to a state of emotional, mental, and physical health prior to your teen’s discharge date. Your family has probably been through a lot. Try and get as healthy as you can, so that when your teen returns home, they are not returning to every single problem that they left.