We know the holidays can bring great joy, but also stress. For teens and adolescents struggling with substance use disorders, extra stress during the holidays can cause them to use or relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes the importance of human interaction during this time of year and encourages relatives and friends to reach out – in person or virtually – to someone with a substance use disorder to offer support.
In addition to checking in, the Addiction Services team at Akron Children’s Hospital offers a few other suggestions to help kids who are struggling this holiday season.
1. Discuss triggers with your child. Understanding what their triggers are such as stress, certain people or different environments, can help you limit them. Talk with your child about how to recognize trigger warning signs and create a plan to combat them.
2. Make sure basic needs are being met. Common triggers can stem from feelings and emotions caused by being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT). Making sure a child gets a variety of healthy foods and snacks, as well as plenty of sleep can help prevent relapse.
3. Seek out support. Encourage your child to talk with a trusted source or schedule an extra visit with a sober peer sponsor, counselor or health care provider to talk and find strategies to get through challenging times and situations.
4. Try something new. Suggest an activity that improves a child’s mindfulness or self care such as yoga, meditation or massage. Or, create a new family tradition such as volunteering at an organization. Helping others can shift the focus to something positive that makes us all feel good.
5. Model good behavior yourself. Adolescents tend to imitate their parents’ behavior so be mindful that your kids are watching and listening.
“Try not to enable or excuse problematic behavior just because it’s occurring around the holidays,” said William Goldman, DO, medical director of the Addiction Services Program at Akron Children’s. “Remember a relapse only takes a moment of vulnerability and it isn’t always the result of conscious decision or thought. Caregivers should try to remain calm and supportive with the child. A relapse does not mean failure; it’s just something that needs to be addressed to move forward.”
If you notice clues that your child is falling back into their old ways, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Help can come in many different forms and can be different for each individual.
For information on the Addiction Services Program at Akron Children’s that provides evidenced-based treatment services for kids up to age 18 with substance use disorders, call us at 330-543-5015.