Sunday, August 28, 2011

What if Your Teenager is Abusing You?

 I usually counsel families not to shut out their drug or alcohol using teenager, in the service of staying ready and willing to help the young person back to sobriety. I worry about families who use Tough Love as an excuse to abandon a young person who is essentially helpless to control his or her behavior. All the lying and cheating that addicted kids do can (quite understandably!) lead parents to eject the teenager from the family home, with the admonition to "get yourself together or don't come back!" Generally speaking this is unfair, in the same way it would be unfair to demand that a  person bleeding in the street get himself together and stop bleeding. He'd like to! However, there is one circumstance that absolutely necessitates that the teenager be cut off from his family, for the good of both the family and the teenager. That circumstance is when the teenager is abusing the family, or any members of the family. Although the most obvious issue would be physical abuse, I do include emotional and financial abuse. Are you afraid of physical harm from your teenager? Does your teenager browbeat you verbally? Demand and receive money from you? Steal money or goods from your home? If any of that is happening, your home is not a safe or sobriety-promoting place for your teenager, and he or she needs to be out. I say this not only for your own protection as parents, but for the well being of your drug or alcohol using teenager. The world simply does not work that way - outside of your house, offering physical violence or stealing things will get your teenager arrested, beaten up, or worse. And the abuse dynamic set up in your home makes it certain that your teenager will not get help for the drug or alcohol use, and you will be helping no one. Although an abusive teenager cannot stay in your house, you can still offer help by arranging for treatment elsewhere or  setting up insurance benefits. Aside from physical abuse, the definition of what constitutes abuse, emotional, financial, or otherwise, can be a bit subjective. But if you feel afraid in your own home, or you worry about not being able to reason with your teenager, you are probably being abused and you need to separate from your teenager for his benefit and yours!

1 comment:

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