Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Best ways to stop enabling: what teens in treatment tell us.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, May 01, 2009

We had the opportunity to ask teenagers in treatment and few of their parents what are the best ways to stop enabling. We ask them to come up with the top three.

1. Stop lying, covering up, or making excuses for your teenager, such as calling in sick for him. Even if you think your teenager has a good reason to miss school or to miss a treatment session don't lie when you call in for him. He has a drug problem and he needs to face the music even when you think it's unreasonable. For example, if you lie and say he is sick when he is not then why shouldn't he lie and say he is sick to skip responsibilities that you think he should do? You are creating a monster when you cross this line. If you have done it-own up to it- and tell your teenager that it was a mistake and you won't be covering for him anymore.

This sounds easy. It's not always easy. There is the battle and there is the war. For example, if your teenager has a paper due the next day and he has procrastinated, then allowing him to miss treatment so that he can complete his paperwork might seem like the right thing to do. And if it doesn't happen very often, maybe it is the right thing to do. Reasonable people can disagree on that one; however, when you call in a lie for him and tell the therapist that he is sick, then you have just approved of faking sick to get out of something. That's a mistake that will come back to haunt you. If you approve of him missing the treatment session then call in and say that he procrastinated on a paper and you hope it's OK that he misses one session. Stick to the truth. Probably, it's better if he takes a bad grade and learns that procrastination is a bad policy. Or go to the treatment session and let him stay up late working on the paper. You can win the battle of the grade on the paper but loose the war on substance abuse in part because you are enabling.

2. Do not give or loan your teenager money if you know that they still abuse drugs or if you believe that they may not be able to pay you back on time. Again, this is easier said than done. Teenagers have a way of making it sound entirely reasonable to trust them money when you know from past experience that you should not. Sometimes it is a good idea to suggest alternatives such as, "No, I will not give you the money; if you need new shoes I will go with you to the mall and we will pick out a pair together that don't cost too much." Teenagers want things. Teens in trouble with drugs often want things that they don't deserve, that are unreasonable, etc. Don't trust them with money if you know you can't trust them and don't buy them a lot of stuff they don't need. You can't buy love. Period.

3. Set Boundaries, don't make threats, and stick to them. For example, don't keep secrets from your teenager's therapist, from his PO, or from his other parent if you think the information is significant. Most things are significant. Your boundary could be stated this way: I will not keep secrets for you. Therefore, if he violates his curfew it's not "if you do that one more time, I will tell your father," it's "of course I will tell your father- I don't keep secrets for you." It's not a threat. It's a boundary. Words like "nevertheless" and "regardless" help keep boundaries. Remember, you don't have to continually justify a boundary. It's your boundary- keep it- use it- and don't explain why you do it all the time. Your teenager gets it. He just doesn't like it.

Teenager: If you tell my PO that he is going to put me at Shuman. Is that what you want? You just want to get rid of me don't you?

Mom: Nevertheless, I don't keep secrets from you PO.

Teenager: You're a bit&@.

Mom: Regardless, I will not keep your secrets.

Honorable Mention: All three of our discussion groups came up with this last one as an honorable mention: Do not drink or use drugs with your teenager. When asked why this didn't make the top three on anybody's list the answer we got was "we don't think this would happen very much anyway, but if it did - stopping that would be in the top three."

However, it does happen more often than you would think. Some parents are courageously honest about it treatment. If you have done this, admit it in treatment. Tell your teenager that you have made a mistake. Tell them you will not be doing this anymore. Then, perhaps take your teenager to a meeting and you will find that you can turn this handicap into a strength. If on the other hand you try to keep this important fact a secret then you set a bad example. Once again, Secrets Keep us Sick. Also, consider that using substances in front of your teenager is also usually not a good idea.

No comments:


This layout (edited by Ken) made by and copyright cmbs.