Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
It is difficult to think about our children becoming so overwhelmed with life’s issues that they turn to and abuse addictive substances. What is more troubling is that the addiction will more than likely increase as they become older. Although substance use is a concern for all teenagers, some are at a higher risk than others in developing an addiction. There are many reasons why some individuals are more susceptible to addiction than others. There are internal, social, and environmental factors that cause some teens to become more vulnerable to risky behaviors. Understanding that our genes and family history of addiction play a considerable role in our teen’s disposition, relationships with family and friends are also important.
In schools, Black teens reportedly receive more harsh consequences for the same offenses than their White counterparts do and have more numbers of office referrals and out of school suspensions than their White counterparts. Since the onset of the pandemic of COVID-19, the number of teenagers reporting depression and addiction drastically increased. Black teens reported increased depression, anxiety, and addiction due to racial unrest and violence. As they reported feeling fearful and unsafe, they were also challenged with not trusting authoritative figures.
If you find that your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs, there is hope. You may begin by talking to your teen and keeping the doors of communication open. If you begin having conversations with your young ones and spending quality time with them before they become teenagers, the ease of having open conversations during their adolescent years will run more smoothly and not appear as awkward. Reinforce your child’s strengths and help them to develop their self confidence. Focusing on your child’s strengths and helping them to increase their ability to be successful, manage their own thoughts and emotions, and make meaningful decisions to cope with challenges will help to reduce their dependence on addictive drugs. Without a strong sense of self confidence, your child may tend to be more depressed, have a low self- esteem, and feel helpless/hopeless. Young adults build their self-confidence by trying new things and applying prior knowledge to new tasks. Rather than simply telling them they are strong and valuable, give your teen age-appropriate tasks that they are able to take responsibility of so that they may build their sense of worth.
Provide your teens with a positive support system to avoid them feeling isolated. Make sure you model good behavior and practices in coping with challenges. This will help them in visualizing what healthy coping mechanisms should look like. Last but not least, guide them with care. Being too judgmental and harsh will only cause the teen to shut down and turn to the addictive drugs even more.
Dr. Angela M. Powell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Progressive Counseling & Consulting, LLC., specializing in youth trauma, anxiety, and depression.
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