THE BLOG
10/24/2016 03:44 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2017

7 Things Parents Should Know About Dealing With Teenage Addiction

One of the biggest fears of parents of adolescents is addiction. While in the yesteryears, parents worried mostly about alcohol and smoking, today's parents have to also be aware of addictions that come in different flavors- Social media, video games, junk food, gambling, prescriptions drugs, the list goes on!

Addictions often happen as a result of kids trying to cope with something through a substance or thing. For example, a teenage girl who might be afraid of bullies could end up being hooked to the internet all day!

Sarah Zalewski, a licensed professional counselor and cognitive behavior therapist from Connecticut sums it up, "Addiction is the use of anything that creates pleasure, needing more of the thing to maintain the level of pleasure, and continuing its use even if unpleasant consequences happen."

One of the scariest things about teenage addiction is that addiction comes very easy as a result of their still developing brains. Kids are not necessarily addicted only if they are smoking 10-12 cigarettes a day- they can be hooked from day one!

Like everything else, it is much easier to prevent the addiction from taking over their lives, than acting much later. It also helps to know that their teen brains undergo real physical changes during this time.

Here are 7 things parents must know to help their kids:

Know your child's life:

As they grow, the deluge of non-stop chatter that met us immediately after they got down from the school bus will likely be replaced by monosyllables. Even though it might look like there are not interested in starting or maintaining conversations, regular family conversations can help bring a sense of calm to their otherwise tumultuous days.

Look for signs:

Most teenagers give out signals in neon colors -withdrawal from friends and families, a sudden intense preoccupation, refusal to talk, avoiding topics that they previously loved, preferring to be alone, anxiety, sleeping trouble, unkempt appearance, dropping grades. Parents should constantly be watching out for any uncommon patterns with their children. Let your instincts do the talking.

Know their friends:

Knowing your kids' children is the best protection strategy. Many a time, a friend perceives what your child might be going through and may come forward to tip off the parents about disturbing behavior. However, this is possible only if the communication channels with their friends are wide open.

Keep a tab on their digital life:

Cyberbullying is reported as a main cause of parent-worry and often causes addictive behavior.

Parents need to understand the implications of their kids'(and their own) digital identities because it can have a long-standing, often irreversible impact on their lives and careers. Parents often assume that forcing children to share their passwords and grabbing their phones for random checks will help them know everything. However, that is far from the truth.

Cat Coode, who runs Binary Tattoo offers online audits of kids' digital identities, says, " Often when kids are 'forced' to share their accounts, they create secondary accounts to hide their real images and chats and then share curated accounts with parents. That is why it is always so important to teach digital citizenship rather than relying on just tools or monitoring."

Set a good example:

Children who see good examples of coping with stress around them are much more likely to emulate them. When they see adults trying hard to quit smoking, and relying on healthy stress-busting habits like cultivating a hobby, reading or taking a run, they are less likely to turn to substances as their first choice.

Set boundaries:

Toddlers need them. Teens need them. In fact, teens are grateful for rules and boundaries. The only reason they seem to like taking risks is because the pressure to fit in with their peers is too high. Here's research that boundaries and consistent relationships with adults can reduce adolescent risk-taking.

Do not panic:

Finally, if you do find that your child is struggling with addiction, be assured that there is help available. Discuss it with the school counselor, or seek help from a group like Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous. Also, there are several adolescent therapists who specialize in addiction therapy, especially for adolescents.

About the author:

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder and editor of Kidskintha- a platform dedicated to helping millennial parents raise happy kids. Get your own FREE copy of the eBook "137 Proven Productivity Hacks For The Millennial Parent" now.

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Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.