The stories we hear of young people experimenting with drugs and overdosing from them are becoming all too common. It’s so distressing to think of young people in that much pain that they’re willing to risk their lives, and it’s so unfortunate that they don’t know the life-threatening risks of experimenting with drugs, that they’re using them simply to have fun, and to cope with their feelings of boredom and a lack of fulfillment in their lives. When speaking with the young people in our lives, and when working with them in a professional capacity, what do they need from us as the adults they know and trust?
Our young people need to feel safe talking to us and confiding in us about everything they’re going through, witnessing and experiencing, including all of the difficult things they might have a hard time talking about. They need to feel as though they can disclose how they’re being peer pressured to try drugs, how they’re being coerced into sexual activity, how they’re being bullied and mistreated. They need to know that we won’t judge them or make them feel unsafe in any way. We won’t look down on them. We won’t ask them a million questions and interrogate them, causing them to feel uncomfortable and unsafe opening up to us. They need to know that they can rely on us, that we will be there for them, and that we will do whatever we can to protect them. They need to know that they won’t be punished for the mistakes they’ve made. It’s so much more important that we keep the lines of communication open, and that they know they can come to us if they’re ever in a dangerous, compromising or uncomfortable situation.
When speaking with the young people in our lives, let’s establish a form of communication that is open, honest and transparent. Let’s encourage them to ask us their questions and not rely on misinformation from their peers or the internet. Let’s reassure them that together we can come up with solutions to any problem they might be facing. Let’s create action plans for situations where they might need our help. For example, if they’re at a party and being pressured to experiment with drugs, we can set up a system for how they will communicate that to us, such as creating a safe word they can use that means they need us to come get them, no questions asked, no judgment, no punishment. When they feel confident that they can receive these things from us, they’re far more likely to keep talking to us. They’re more likely to make smarter, more educated decisions around drug use, and they’re more likely to come to us if they’re in danger. If we can give our young people these things they so badly need as they’re navigating these difficult issues, we very well may be able to save their lives.
If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Reach out for support. The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and recovery. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.