Here’s what I know as a substance abuse counselor, recovering alcoholic with 21 years of sobriety, sociologist, youth development researcher, parent and teen communication coach and mother of two awesome, powerful young adults who have navigated their way clear of generational alcoholism.
According to research and the experiences of many conscious parents, here are the top three things that parents can do to help prevent teen substance abuse.
Your heart-to-heart connection with your teen is the best protective factor against substance abuse. In other blog posts, I’ve shared ways to make connections via fun activities, teaching skills and helping through crisis. I’ve even shared how open-ended questions can facilitate a deeper connection.
2. Conscious Communication
Consciously communicating your heart with authenticity and vulnerability is one of the best ways to connect with your teen because it supports them to become their most authentic selves. (There are conscious communication skills to learn that help achieve deep levels of connection. I teach them in my Back on Track Parent and Teen Communication Program.)
But there is a third protective factor which springs from the integration of #1 and #2.
3. Be Present
While being physically present is foundational, the real difference occurs when we are emotionally present with our teens. Emotional presence prevents a myriad of risky behavior. “Showing up” to each interaction with our teens as emotionally clean and free as possible, in the moment is the true work of conscious parenting. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean be perfect. It means be aware and awake.
Example: As parents work their way through my Back on Track Parent and Teen Communication Program, they bump into what triggers them. A “trigger” is any feeling and possibly behavior that comes up when interacting with our teen that takes us away from the present moment and the current reality with our teen.
When we ask our teen to take the trash out and they delay finishing their video game before doing it, we may become angry – not because they didn’t ask how high when we said jump but because in that moment, we are feeling all the time that we didn’t feel heard as a child and teen ourselves. We may not consciously be aware that we are loading the present moment with our past emotions and experiences, but as we come to a greater awareness and appreciation for our beloved teen, the sovereign being in front of us, we may see our reactions are not responses to the present moment.
Here we have an opportunity to grow.
Exploring childhood triggers and reparenting our inner child helps us be present with our own teens. This is a large part of conscious parenting. In my Journey to Freedom Program for Parents Reparenting themselves to heal co-dependent tendencies, I’ve added to the inner work of conscious parenting to include the exploration of families of origin. Many of us attracted to this exploration grew up with an absent or inattentive parent who was alcoholic, addicted or mentally ill. That caused a cluster of issues for us in childhood and adolescence that carry over to codependent tendencies with our teens. For example, we may find we are seeking the approval and validation from our teens.
The good news is, it is possible to free ourselves and them! But how, do we achieve this freedom for ourselves and our teens?
I have found the spiritual path of the 12 Steps of Recovery to be incredibly helpful in this process. To learn more, download 12 Steps to Parenting Teens