Cassie just completed a 90-day inpatient stay at a rehab facility. Returning home, she’s anxious to get back to school. She misses her friends and wants to feel like a "normal" teen again.
Her parents, on the other hand, aren’t sure that going back to school this soon is a good idea. Cassie is clean and sober now, but will that last if she’s thrust right back into her old environment? All the kids she used to do drugs with are still there. Won’t she be tempted to slip into old habits?
Ben also just came home from treatment. However, he has no desire to return to his high school. The place is crawling with drugs and isn’t a safe place to be, even for those who have never used drugs (which is a rarity at his school). He's worked too hard to reach this point in recovery just to risk throwing it all away.
Ben knows how hard it will be to stay clean in that environment, so he tells his parents he doesn’t want to go back. His parents aren’t sure what to do. They’re glad he's taking ownership of his recovery, but they also don’t want him to drop out of school.
Asking the Right Questions
Is it “safe” to send your teen back to school? The answer is: it depends. Unfortunately, like most parenting issues, there’s no magic formula that works for every kid. As with Cassie and Ben, every situation is unique. There’s no right number of days to wait after treatment. There are, however, some right questions to consider:
About the School:
- What kind of environment does the school offer?
- Are all of your teen’s school friends addicted too?
- Does the school offer healthy programs your teen could join?
About Your Teen:
- Is he/she taking ownership of their recovery? (They’ve admitted the problem and are working to make changes.)
- Is he/she attending support group meetings?
- Is he/she making new, sober friends?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you can weigh the options and determine what’s best for your teen.
Having an Alternative
If the school is teeming with drug use, and you know your teen will be surrounded by poor influences, perhaps you should consider alternatives:
- Private schooling
- Charter or online schooling
If, on the other hand, the school offers a good environment for your teen, it might be helpful for them to go back. They can focus on making (and meeting) goals and finding interests outside of drug use.
The important thing to note is whether or not they’re taking action to stay sober. If they aren’t attending meetings, seeking counseling, or doing other things to contribute to their sobriety, your teen probably won’t stay sober when they go back to school. If this is the case, hold off for a bit. Give them support. Help them get to a strong place in their recovery. Then they will be able to stand firm as they reenter the hallways.
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