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10 Handy Tips for Effectively Talking to Your Teen About Heroin Use

10 Handy Tips for Effectively Talking to Your Teen About Heroin Use

Let’s face it, talking to teenagers about nearly anything—let alone drug use—is far from easy. The last thing they want is their parents confronting them about using heroin.

Whether you found a heroin kit in your child’s bedroom or you recognized the physical and behavioral symptoms, it’s time to have a serious talk. But how do you approach your teen without getting a door slammed in your face?

1. Create A Defensive-Free Zone

Threats or rants will get you tuned out in the blink of an eye. Choose a time when you’re not stressed or rushed, and if your teen is open to the idea, consider spending some quality time watching a movie or eating out. After the credits roll, express your concern and ask what’s been going on. Pick a place that’s private and out of earshot of siblings or other family members.

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2. Map Out A Plan

Decide who’s going to talk with your teen—you, your spouse, or both of you. Plan what you’re going to say. Write it out. Practice it in front of the mirror. Anticipate different scenarios from your angst-ridden teen. Prepare responses for 1) vehement denials about using heroin, 2) claims of experimentation or a passing phase, and/or 3) admitting to needing help.

3. Keep Emotions In Check

It’s easy for the conversation to go from telling your teen you’re worried to shouts, arguments, and hurt feelings. This may be one of the toughest conversations you’ll ever have with your child, and your emotions are bound to go haywire. It’s okay for your teen to see the concern in your face, but if you’re so emotional that you can’t hold your composure, you won’t make headway.

4. Tell Your Teen What You See

Let your teen know you’ve found blatant evidence, like syringes, burnt spoons, or the drug itself. Explain any signs and symptoms you’ve noticed, like a change in appearance, failing grades, or needle tracks. Teens using drugs often cut ties with good friends and drop out of sports or activities they used to love. Point out that all of these things make you suspicious. Whether your child admits to using or not, he or she at least needs to know you know what’s up.

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5. Be Prepared For Denial

It’s a fact: drug users lie. They’ll say anything to convince others they’re not using drugs. Even if you’re holding a bag of heroin you found in a dresser drawer, your teen will slap the blame on someone else. If your child becomes agitated and you’re not getting anywhere, table the conversation for later. Show your teen that actions have consequences, like grounding, removal of a cell phone, or freezing the weekly allowance.

6. Anticipate Teenage Rage

When teens discover their parents have gone through their rooms, personal belongings, or phones, they might fire back with accusations like “You’re violating my privacy,” or “You don’t trust me!”. Acknowledge that you love your teen and that you did what you did out of concern, but don’t get sucked into an argument. You’re doing what you can to help your child.

7. Present The Facts

Heroin use isn’t pretty. Give your teen the cold, hard facts—don’t sugarcoat them. Research the effects and dangers of heroin, including fatal overdose. Let them read about it. Show them pictures of long-term heroin users. Point out no one is immune to the dangers of heroin use, not even idolized celebrities who have ruined their careers or died from drug addiction. Heroin doesn’t discriminate—anyone can become addicted and any user risks overdosing, especially when users take bigger doses to get the same high as their bodies develop tolerance over time.

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8. Show Unconditional Love

Many teens reject parental affection, but they need to recognize that they’re loved unconditionally. Don’t accept or excuse your teen’s drug use, but let your loved one know that you’ll always be there to talk and that you’re willing to help your teen however you can.

9. Listen Compassionately

Your talk may lead to a conversation about drug use or related problems, from school and friends to issues with you. Come up with a plan to tackle any concerns. Teens need empathy from people who won’t dismiss their problems.

10. Get Support

You’ve taken an important step by reading up on how to talk to your teen about heroin use. You don’t have to go through it alone! Contact your child’s doctor or look into family counseling or rehab facilities. There are professionals who can help you and your teen.

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Talking to your teen about using drugs is challenging, but with your support, your loved one can get back on the right path.

Featured photo credit: HighwayStarz via bigstockphoto.com

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Published on September 18, 2018

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

1. Communicate clearly.

When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

2. Clarify rules.

Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

3. Get out of the past.

It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

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4. Don’t triangulate.

One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

5. Bless and release.

One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

6. Practice mindful parenting.

Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

7. Develop a support network.

Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

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8. Practice presence.

Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

9. Practice “I” statements.

A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

10. Learn to compromise.

If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

11. Give a little.

Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

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Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

12. Talk with your children.

Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

13. Leverage your relationship.

Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

14. Attract, don’t pursue.

Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

15. Open up.

Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

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Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

16. Embrace change.

A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

17. Make room for new possibilities.

A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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