Teens and substance abuse – your own history

father and sons

Teens and substance abuse is always going to be a parenting issue as your kids grow up and become teenagers. It can be even more complicated if your own history as a parent is not as clean as you'd like it to be.

Dads (or mums for that matter) if you have a family history of substance abuse, you should be concerned about your teen children finding out about this. It's not that you should hide it from them - you just want to be sure that they hear it from you.

You need to remember that as your kids grow up, their relationship with other members of your family often becomes more conversational. This can easily lead to indiscreet revelations about parts of your own earlier life you'd rather forget.

Family members who are still substance abusing themselves are the most likely to do this. Strangely... addicts of any kind tend to resent fellow addicts successfully breaking their addiction and often don't hesitate to reveal the previous indiscretions of those who have broken the habit.

You've probably already worked out how to prevent this happening to you. But if you haven't, here's what to do...

Tell your teens about it yourself.

Because if you don't... and they find out about it, you're going to look like ​a hypocrite if you've already had discussions with them about substance abuse. So don't let them find about your murky past from other members of your family or anyone else. Come clean and use the opportunity to reinforce the message about the dangers involved.

You don't need to be too concerned about tarnishing your image in the eyes of your children either​. Sure, they'll be a little shocked when you make this revelation. They will go away and think about it. But ultimately you will be strengthening the bond of trust and honesty which is so important between parents and teenagers.

This will be part of a new type of relationship where your children begin a transition from regarding you as ​a benevolent (hopefully) and protective authority figure - to seeing you as a human being with faults and weaknesses, but one who loves them and will never lie to them.

And this is a good thing​ because it's the basis of the trust your teenagers must have in you before they will come to you with their problems, issues, dilemmas and confessions. And if you can keep these lines of communication open, you have the foundations of a healthy relationship with them.

Teens and substance abuse can be a thorny issue if you let it become one. Rather use it as an opportunity​ to start building the kind of relationship with your teens that will prevent it ever becoming an issue.

Tyler Jacobson wrote the piece below and it was published in The Good Men Project. You'll find a link to the full article below the excerpt.​

"You have managed to escape the family curse of substance abuse but now that your own children are approaching their teen years you are worried about allowing them to have contact with the rest of your family. Don’t worry dad! Help is here.

I mean you have every right to worry but do not let the worry overwhelm you. It is actually a sentiment shared by many fathers (and mothers) with substance abusing families who are caught in that weird space between being clean, raising clean teens, and substance abusing family members.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

If you try to convince your children that you have never used drugs or alcohol and your cousin Jimmy knows better, you are setting yourself up to lose a ton of credibility with your teens. Cousin Jimmy isn’t going to be too interested in keeping your secret. Besides people under the influence tend to have loose lips and tend to not treat their old drinking and/or drug buddies with any amount of respect while they are using. If you have used substances in the past, be honest with your teens because you can practically count on someone in your family sharing all the gory details with your teenagers. Your best course of action is to be appropriately honest with your teens about your personal history with drugs and alcohol. You do not need to give your teens a play by play but you do need to be factual. You will also be setting yourself up to be a positive role model for your children..."

Tyler Jacobson in The Good Men Project 


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