So you're cleaning your kid's room after asking them for the seventh time to do it. While you're doing it, you run across some type of alcohol or drug. You're shocked at first, and then some denial comes in. Then you're angry. Figuring out a good way to handle it can be the difference between building a stronger relationship with your child or creating an even bigger rift in your relationship with them. Here are several things to remember when you have to deal with this situation.
1. You are not alone
Every day, parents all over the world have children that are involved in drugs and alcohol. This doesn't mean it's OK, but it does mean you don't have to go through this challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable, time alone. Alanon family is a great resource for parents who are in the midst of not knowing what to do.
2. Have a plan
It would be really easy to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to finding drugs or alcohol in your child's room. There will be any number of emotions you will be feeling, and you may want to take care of the problem right then and there. Yes, this could be a crisis, and it's not something that will be able to solve itself in the next few hours. It will be wise to have a plan of action. When will you talk? Who will you have present with you? What questions will you need to have answered? If you have these kinds of things mapped out ahead of time, your conversation can go much more smoothly as you approach your kid.
3. Don't go in angry
It is completely understandable to be angry about this new information you have just found out about. Yet, trying to let someone know your concern about them in the midst of anger doesn't usually work well. It especially doesn't work well if you try to do it with a teen. They hear and feel your anger instead of the actual message. Anger is a secondary emotion. What you are really feeling is something more akin to hurt, sadness, disappointment or loss. Those are the emotions you should talk about.
4. You are in charge
To some degree, you, as the parent, should be in charge in your child's life. The fact that you found what you found should let you clearly know that you NEED to stay in charge. Your child is off-course and you need to help him get back on course. The challenge here is if you are off-course yourself. It's going to be much more difficult to get your child back on track. Part of the reason he could be using drugs is due to something you may or may not be doing. Self-evaluation is going to be important in this process. If you are using illegal drugs and your kid knows it, it will be very difficult for him to listen to you. Make sure you are not doing things that undermine you being in charge.
5. Gather support
You don't have to do this alone. Since you are in charge it's going to be important to gather support around yourself and your kid. This support can take form in a variety of ways. The most immediate way to get support is with a spouse or significant other who can help you. Together you can think of some ways to implement a new plan in the home. Gathering other family members, church members or even close friends can be useful as well. If you absolutely have no one in your vicinity to provide support, then the above link to Alanon can be a starting place to find support.
6. Stay consistent
Kids need consistency in their lives. This is no different. Once you have a plan and have gathered support you now need to stay consistent. You can't let things get in the way of your consistency. Things unfortunately may need to be arranged in your life in order to make things work in a consistent manner.
7. Love your kid
When you had your child, there was no way you imagined she would someday use illegal substances. Instead, you had great hopes and dreams for her. At the core of your relationship with her, there was love. This love caused you to stay up nights with her when she was sick, make her favorite meals, take her to places she loved. This love is what will carry you through now. It will help you stay consistent and do the hard things when it comes to helping your child. Love is simply not an emotion, it's also an action. You can and must love your child even in the midst of these difficult circumstances.
The important thing to remember through this process is the value of controlled action and love. While this discovery may offer its share of pain, the end result can be one of hope, recovery and understanding.