An Emotional First Aid Kit for Your Teenager’s Recovery

What can parents do to emotionally support their kids during recovery?

A volcanic eruption. A category four hurricane. A 9.5 earthquake.

Teenage emotions often resemble the worst threats nature can throw at us. Toss addiction and recovery in the mix, and you’re facing a perfect storm.

Navigating these tumultuous waters is no easy task for parents. It’s easy to say “the wrong thing” or feel like you’re making situations worse. It can seem impossible to avoid landmines as you try to offer support.

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

What can you do to help them in recovery? How can you help your teen process their emotions and arrive safely on the other side?

The ride won’t always be smooth, but here are a few tips for the path ahead. Assemble these tools, and you’ll have a good kit prepared to handle the emotions of a teen in recovery.

  • Throw out the band-aids.
    If your teen is hurting, don’t try to stop serious pain with a little bandage. Don’t let depression or anger issues go unnoticed or untreated. Neither you nor your teen can afford to try to numb or ignore this pain. Get professional counseling if needed.
  • Stitch up the bleeding.
    Are there negative cycles in your teen’s life? Poor thinking habits or patterns of behavior? Identify these and work to address them. Explain to your teen how these cycles start, progress, and lead to more emotional turmoil.
  • Apply protection to self-esteem.
    Let your teen know how proud you are of them for the progress they’ve made in recovery. Find ways to encourage them. Help them cease any negative self-talk they may be experiencing.
  • Learn CPR.
    What life-saving information or support could be helpful for your situation? You may need to learn about the specific drugs your teen was taking. You might benefit from a support group for parents of addicted teens. Your teen may need medical treatment to help them through withdrawal. Train yourself in the appropriate CPR for your teen’s needs.
  • Make time for a break.
    Often, too much down time is a temptation for teens. If they don’t have enough to do, they fill their time with unhealthy activities. But jam-packed days can be unhealthy, too. It’s important for your teen to have time to relax. Especially in recovery, a teen’s schedule shouldn’t be overbooked. Make sure they aren’t keeping a frenzied pace in a frantic effort to stay sober. Help them carve out down time. Do something fun together. Encourage them to spend time journaling. These calm moments are good for their emotional well-being.
  • Change things up every now and then.
    Kids like routine, but an occasional break from the norm offers great psychological benefits. It can break negative thinking patterns and improve self-esteem. Encourage your teen to experience small “adventures.” This might involve a weekend fishing trip or spending an afternoon with family members. Shake up the normal Facebook-to Netflix-to-iPhone routine with new experiences that help them learn and grow.
  • Use natural remedies.
    Natural landscapes improve recovery from stress. Encourage your teen to step outside and take in the beauty of nature. Schedule a family hike. Plan a weekend camping trip. Spend a day at the lake. (If you’re in Minnesota in January, try cross-country skiing or an impromptu snowball fight.) Unplugging from day-to-day life and plugging into nature can have a beautiful impact on your teen’s emotional state.
  • Apply a healthy dose of optimism.
    Did you know experts say optimism enhances resilience? It gives teens a much-needed boost to deal with the challenges of recovery. Help them develop an attitude of optimism (and cultivate one for yourself). Encourage them to write about moments when they felt proud, jot down goals for the future, and focus on their strengths. The positive outlook they see in you - and feel in themselves - can make a huge impact on their journey.

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