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When Your Teen Asks “Why Do I Have to Go to Rehab?”

Parents speaking to their teenager about going to teen drug rehab

Remember when your child was young and he or she would ask you all kinds of “why” questions? You know, like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does it get cold in the wintertime?” “Why can pigeons fly but ostriches can’t?”

Did you think answering those questions was difficult? Then you have never had to come up with a response to your teenager’s tearful plea: “Why do I need to go to rehab?”

Undoubtedly, this question arises long after your teen’s addiction has caused copious levels of pain, stress, and/or legal problems for him or her and your entire family. So when responding to this appeal, it is essential that you articulate precisely why this drastic step is necessary for your teen’s well-being.

Some answers to this question might start with…

“Because I/we will not tolerate your drug/alcohol abuse any longer.” Do not just say, “Because I said so” and leave it at that. Declare that you will no longer ignore the presence of drugs or alcohol in your home, accept your teen’s implausible explanations, or continue to make excuses for his or her behavior.

“Your addiction is not just affecting you.” Explain how you and your entire family are suffering from your teen’s substance abuse. It is quite possible that your teen has never stopped to consider how his or her behavior is impacting the emotions and stress levels of others.

“Your actions have consequences.” Point out the damage that your teenager’s addiction has wrought. This may include plummeting grades, a loss of friends, criminal penalties, a job termination, and/or multiple embarrassing episodes. Highlighting the negative ramifications of substance abuse will help erode your teen’s denial.

“Because people react to drugs or alcohol differently.” This is helpful when your teen breaks out the “everyone else does it” argument. In truth, some people are more genetically susceptible to addiction than others. Illustrate this point by identifying your teen’s natural strengths and abilities among their peer group (like being athletic or good at math), and then note that everyone else has weaknesses as well (like being prone to addiction).

“Why don’t you want to go to rehab?” Not only does this shift the focus of the conversation, but it can also flesh out your teen’s biggest reservations about substance abuse treatment. Once you have heard these fears, you and your teen can work together to find solutions to these specific issues, which may make rehab less frightening.

“Because you/we cannot beat this addiction by yourself/ourselves.”Admitting that you need help with this problem might make it easier for your teen to ask for and accept professional assistance. After all, if you were truly capable of solving this problem, you would not be having this conversation about rehab, right?

When speaking with your teen about rehab, it is important to remain calm, refrain from judgment or blame, and reiterate your unconditional love and support. Do not begin this conversation without having an action plan in place to start the drug treatment enrollment process. If there are friends or other family members who want to help, consider having this discussion as part of a group intervention.

Above all, understand that inpatient drug rehab for teenagers is a long journey rather than a quick-fix cure. The journey cannot begin without the teen taking the first step on his or her road to recovery.

Need more information about inpatient drug rehab for teenagers before confronting them about their addiction? Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment specifically for teens.

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