How To Approach Your Child About Entering Drug Rehab: Guest Blog from Waters Edge Recovery

How To Approach Your Child About Entering Drug Rehab:  Guest Blog from Waters Edge Recovery

The Addictions Coach 1.800.706.0318 


Do you suspect your child may be taking drugs or alcohol? Are you wary about approaching them to discuss the subject? First, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Substance abuse is prevalent among young people. Many parents share this unfortunate situation. Approximately 9% of children age 12 and above are substance-dependent.  How do you know for sure if your child has a drug or alcohol addiction? What are the signs? If your suspicions are confirmed, how do you get help for your child?  STEP 1 – RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS If your child starts behaving differently for no apparent reason, it could signal a problem. Behaviors to look for include:

  • Appearing withdrawn or depressed
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Sudden weight loss or red eyes
  • Deteriorating relationships
  • Declining school performance

STEP 2 – RAISING THE SUBJECT Preparing Conversations with your child can be more productive if you understand what’s driving the substance abuse. There are five general reasons why your child may have resorted to drugs. They may be trying to:

  1. Numb physical, mental, or emotional pain
  2. Be accepted by peers
  3. Manage stress
  4. Escape boredom
  5. Satisfy curiosity

Timing Consider what would be the best time for each of you to discuss the subject. Carve out time for yourself when you won’t be distracted or distressed by other events. Watch for an opening when your child appears lucid and not under the influence. What to Avoid You want to avoid putting your child in defense mode. To circumvent defensiveness, try to keep the following out of your conversation:


  • Accusation
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Panic

Try to remain calm. The risk in letting the above emotions into your conversation is that your child will lie or become secretive.

What to Attempt

Open-Ended Questions Begin by asking open-ended questions. These encourage more than a simple “Yes” or “No” reply. They will prompt your child to elaborate. Close-ended questions and one-word answers will stunt conversation. The key words to use in open-ended questions are:

  • Tell me about…
  • Can you describe more…
  • How do you feel…

If your child confesses to using drugs or alcohol, continue with non-judgmental questions. Ask about what he or she has used, how often and why. STEP 3 – TAKING ACTION What to Attempt 1. Be supportive. Tell them you love them. Show your love through validation and empathy.

  • Validation – acknowledge your son’s or daughter’s struggle. Assure them that they have worth and value. Point out their talents and strengths.
  • Empathy – convey your understanding by putting yourself in their shoes. Examples of empathetic conversation are, “Wow, that must have been hard for you,” and “That would have upset me, too.”

The Center for Motivation and Change uses an acronym for communicating effectively. It is “LOVE” – Listening, Offering, Validating, Empathizing.  2. Obtain treatment. It’s vital to get your child into a proven drug rehab program. Parental love isn’t enough to heal your child of substance abuse. Explain that you’re making an appointment with a professional. OBTAINING ASSISTANCE If you’re not making headway with your child, you have several options:

  • Make an appointment for your child with your family physician. Your family physician can perform a drug screening. Once complete, ask your doctor for a referral to a reputable drug rehab treatment center.
  • Have your child speak with a close family member. This individual may be able to connect with your child. He or she should specifically state the need for treatment.
  • Obtain a professional intervention by a mental health specialist. Trained in mediation, a mental health specialist can conduct a professional intervention.

PROFESSIONAL INTERVENTION An intervention is a carefully planned meeting performed by a mental health specialist. Its purpose is to invite a person to accept treatment. An intervention accomplishes the following:

  • Explains the impact of destructive behavior on oneself and others
  • Describes a plan of care
  • Details the consequences of not cooperating

The intervention should include reassurance that the young person will be in good hands. Tell your child that a rehab program will keep them safe and make it easier for them to stop using. WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A REHAB CENTER


An excellent drug rehab facility will tailor therapy to a young person’s unique needs. Individual counseling will be provided. Group therapy may also be part of the care plan. Medications may be administered if there is a need to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. They can also treat underlying depression or other related illness.


Medications can help restore normal brain function, diminish cravings, and prevent relapse. Behavioral therapy will teach coping skills and strategies. Your child will learn how to change his or her thoughts and behaviors related to drug use.  In order to be effective long-term, a person must remain in treatment for an extended period of time. Adhering to the care plan for your child will help break the bonds of drug addiction and restore your child to health.  A brighter future lies ahead. Take the first step, and discuss treatment at a reputable rehab facility with your child. The sooner your child begins treatment, the closer he or she will be to a successful recovery.

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