Q: We recently discovered that our teenage son is using drugs. In fact, it looks like he's in the throes of a full-blown addiction. How can we help him?
Jim: I'm sorry to learn of your son's addiction. In dealing with situations of this nature, Focus on the Family's counseling team recommends keeping the following principles in mind: First, don't deny or ignore the problem. If you do, it's likely to get worse. Second, don't succumb to false guilt. Most parents assume a great deal of self-blame when an addiction surfaces in their home. Third, don't expect quick-fix solutions. Remember that there will be no complete healing until your son learns to assume responsibility for his own actions. This could be a long process.
We suggest that you seek professional counseling for your son, and we highly recommend that you do this together as a family. The most successful treatment programs take a family-systems approach that involves intensive evaluation and a series of counseling sessions offered in an environment of community and accountability. Contact Focus on the Family for referrals to programs of this nature, or a list of qualified therapists in your area who specialize in treating drug addiction.
During this process, you may need to present your son with a number of options, including entering an inpatient drug-treatment center, a halfway house, a boot-camp program or youth home, or staying with a relative who is willing to accept him for a defined period of time. More extreme possibilities may include making your child a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if he has been involved in criminal activity. If you shield him from the consequences of his behavior or bail him out when his drug abuse gets him into trouble, he will not be motivated to change.
May God guide you as you endeavor to walk with your son on the road to healing!
Q: My 14-year-old daughter spends hours and hours in her room. When she comes home from school, I ask her questions about her day, but she just gives one-word answers. How do I connect with her without badgering her?
Juli: First of all, your experience is pretty common. Many affectionate, chatty 10-year-olds turn into reclusive teens with no apparent explanation, other than hormones and peer pressure.
As you are realizing, you can't connect with your daughter in the same ways that you used to. However, that doesn't mean that she no longer needs you. In fact, teens are desperate to know their parents' unconditional love and support. Here are a few ways you can stay connected to your daughter through the changes of adolescence.
Let her know that you are always there to talk, and then back up that promise. Be available when she is ready to talk. A time will come when your daughter will need to talk, cry and even ask for your advice. Most likely, it will be at an inconvenient time for you (like at 2 a.m. or in the middle of the workday). Drop everything and just be there for her.
Spend time with your daughter without asking somewhat complicated questions like, "How are you doing?" Driving her to activities, shopping together or just listening to her music tells her that you are invested and interested.
Find ways to show that you care about her and you love her. That might be placing a note on her pillow that says, "I love you," or putting a special little gift in her backpack every now and then.
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)