Families will be reuniting for the holidays soon. How will it be different after the Covoid pandemic? No longer isolated, how will this family time be different from last year? For the returning college student or the child leaving rehab, how will this visit play out?
According to the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy, there is a serious mental health crisis for the youth in America, as he reported in a news article dated December 8, 2021. How so? It is estimated that one in 4 adults ages 18 and older suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
These alarming statistics bear out his opinions
- A national survey found that almost 53% of full-time college students, ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month and about half of students drink alcohol and almost half of them report binge drinking in the past two weeks. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
- An estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had Alcohol Use Disorder.
- 89 million 18 to 25 year-olds used drugs in the last month.
- 4,777 Americans, ages 15 to 24, died of an overdose of illicit drugs in one year, up 30% from previous year.
- During Covid, 63% of parents allowed their 16 year-old child as well as his 13 year-old sibling to drink at home. The kids developed a taste for alcohol, haven’t suffered any negative consequences from light, monitored drinking at home.
- “Premature drinking at home paves the way for excessive drinking at parties with friends,” states lead author of the JAMA article, Jennifer Maggs, Ph.D., professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University. At these young ages, their brains are not developed (prefrontal cortex) to make wise decisions.
With children returning to the nest with alcohol and drug abuse disorders at this stressful time of year, how can parents support their children so they will remain their best selves during their reentry home? How can a parent help his child so he won’t be “triggered?” ( a trigger refers to something that affects your emotional state, often significantly. It affects one’s ability to be present in the moment because it may bring up specific thought patterns or influence one’s behavior).
Here are some ways a parent may reduce cravings that may trigger their child::
- Clear the decks: Hide alcohol. “Out of sight, out of mind.”
- Lock up your prescription drugs and OTC drugs such as cough syrup.
- Beware of suspicious packages arriving from Canada, unknown sources.
Role play if they are attending a party, hopefully with a crowd whose mission is not to get “high,” so your child will know how to remain sober with these pat answers if pushed to drink or drug:
- “I’m on a diet so I don’t want to drink. It’s all carbs….”
- “I’m the designated driver…”
- “I have to get up early in the a.m. and be clear-headed…”
- “I bought my own drink in case you didn’t have….”
If your child feels “triggered,” he should:
- Call his sponsor.
- Increase the number of 12-step meetings either in-person or on-line.
- Go for a walk, especially in nature.
- Be mindful.
- Avoid areas where dealers might be: under bridges, motels, online.
- Give himself a pep talk.
It is hard to break old patterns, change the family dynamic so there’s trust once again, but it is possible to follow the AA slogan to “change people, places, and things” so that you and the family are more at ease during the holidays and other times as well.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.