Many of our residents visit home for the holidays to spend time with their families. The holiday season often involves many holidays parties where alcohol is served, which can be a temptation for people in recovery. As alcohol use over the holidays is normalized, many young adults may be tempted to make an exception and try to hide that they’ve been drinking from their parents. However, drinking over the holidays can bring up old patterns of substance abuse, craving, and guilt.
Many parents are aware of the stress that family events can bring up for their child after leaving residential treatment and may try to host alcohol-free events to support their daughter. However, for some families, choosing to celebrate more quietly may break traditions their child was looking forward to. It is important to have a conversation about the temptation of alcohol over winter holiday events and to come up with a plan to support her.
Talking with your child about drinking during the holiday season
On an average December day, more than 11,000 teens in the United States, aged 12 to 17, will use alcohol for the first time. Teens are more likely to use substances on any break from school, but winter break is a particularly vulnerable time as teens have access to alcohol at holiday parties with family and friends. During the summer, teens make riskier decisions to use substances, but the availability over winter break makes alcohol use seem more acceptable.
After leaving residential treatment, teens are particularly anxious during the holiday season for a variety of reasons that may make them more vulnerable to alcohol use:
- Social anxiety during holiday events
- Feeling disconnected from family members
- Being asked how they’re doing by distant friends
- Comparing themselves to others
- Pressure to fit in by drinking
- Fear of missing out
- Rigid expectations of recovery can lead to catastrophizing perceived “slip ups”
Here are some tips for making this conversation easier on you and your teen:
- Listen, don’t lecture: After residential treatment, teens have a better understanding of how substances have affected and may continue to affect their life. Trust that they understand the risks, but don’t expect their cravings to have magically disappeared. Ask them about potential problems they believe they may face during holiday events and recognize that this does not mean the worst-case scenario is bound to occur. They may admit feeling anxious about how they will be able to handle the stress or tell you that they honestly have no interest in drinking.
- Talk to them about peer pressure: Let them know what they don’t need to follow what other people are doing. They may want to catch up with old friends that they haven’t seen in a while or they may worry about running into people they don’t want to see. Remind them that there is nothing wrong with saying no to plans or choosing to stay at family events where they may have more support. Offer to take them to a meeting or support group if they would benefit from being around other people who have had similar experiences.
- Ask about coping mechanisms that have worked for them in the past. Many young adults get defensive when you offer solutions without asking or if you try to encourage them to come up with solutions when they are feeling overwhelmed. While they may have a “coping tool kit,” these strategies are often hard to think about when asked what would work best in the moment. Ask them to think about what has worked in similar situations before rather than what they think would help in this exact situation.
- Agree on a safe word and exit plan: Safe words allow your teen to call you at a party that they would rather not be at anymore, without being embarrassed that they called their parents to come pick them up. Creating an exit plan beforehand can get them out of a party they don’t want to be at swiftly and without any danger.
- Plan time to relax after or between events. Often, social calendars fill up quickly the month of December, which makes it harder to recover between events. Suggest physical activity or down time between events to encourage your child to have healthy fun without getting overwhelmed by holiday stress.
Journey Home Can Help
Journey Home is a small residential treatment program for girls and assigned female at birth 16 – 21 years old. This is a program offers a community-based treatment option for young girls and assigned female at birth. It is specifically designed for residents who have successfully completed a therapeutic treatment program but may need more help in transitioning back home. Journey Home West focuses on healthy living, education, responsibilities, and social integration as key components of the program. Young people leave this program feeling empowered, happy, and healthy. We can help your family today!
Contact us at (844) 597-8550 for more information!