A Parent’s Guide: Helping Your Child Change Their Substance Use

As a parent, you may have already asked yourself, “What should I do if my child is using substances or if they do use them in future?” There isn’t just one answer to this question, but UPMC CCP’s behavioral health experts are here to provide parents with the tools and education you’ll need to help your child with this complex problem.

We are pleased to offer a new virtual education series, A Parent’s Guide: Helping Your Child Change Their Substance Use, hosted by our Behavioral Health experts. This four-session virtual education series is for parents and caregivers who want to learn how to help their child change their substance use with understanding, self-care, words, and actions. As a parent, you can have an impact on your child's motivation to change.

Helping with Understanding

Behaviors make sense...even your child's! Understanding why your child is using substances will help you promote positive activities that can compete with your child's substance use. There are many answers, many paths, and many ways to help your child change their relationship with substances. You are in a powerful position to influence profound, real, and lasting change in your child.

Helping with Self Care

Taking care of yourself is vital to helping your child and the rest of your family. When your child is using substances, taking care of yourself often falls to the bottom of the list. Managing your emotions, reducing isolation, and practicing self-compassion are important parts of building resilience. Resilience will help you handle stress, adapt to change, and solve problems.

Helping with Words

Communication often breaks down in the face of stress and high emotion. When your child is using substances, developing new communication strategies may be the most powerful thing you can do. Communicating with LOVE: Listening, Offering, Validating, Empathizing, can help open the lines of communication with your child.

Helping with Actions

Contrary to what you might have heard, confrontation and punishment are not the most helpful strategies to use when you are trying to encourage change. As you help your child change their relationship with substances, it's important for every adult involved to give clear directions and consistent consequences (positive and negative). You can use the same behavioral mechanisms that reinforce substance use, to reinforce positive behaviors instead.