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April 20, 2020

COVID-19 and Teen Drug Use

In the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, survivors were abusing drugs and alcohol at a substantially higher rate than before the hurricane hit. Much of this was in an attempt to cope with the death, destruction, and the loss of so many jobs.

This virus, though not as physically destructive as a hurricane, is a tyrant. It doesn’t care about your teen’s anxiety, it doesn’t care about the relationships it’s straining, and it definitely doesn’t care about how many lives it will take. In many ways, the coronavirus is far scarier than anything we’ve faced before, because unlike Hurricane Katrina, pandemics aren’t limited to one area.

So, how is your family handling the mental, physical, and spiritual tolls of COVID-19?

Drugs as coping tools

In all the stress of trying to cope with this new way of life, we may forget to check in with our teens. How are they handling this? Do they feel anxious? Are they scared? Do they worry about their at-risk loved ones? The mental repercussions of this pandemic can be truly gripping, and if we’re not careful, our kids can easily fall into the same patterns of substance abuse that the Hurricane Katrina survivors did.

According to this Business Insider article, many experts are concerned that the pandemic could lead to a nationwide spike in substance abuse, as people look for a way to numb themselves to anxiety or other issues. 

Though we wish that our children would be immune to such cravings, they’re not—especially if the family has a history of addiction. Our kids are having just as hard of a time with this pandemic as we are, and we need to offer them alternative ways to cope so that substance abuse doesn’t seem as compelling.

The conversation about drug use and abuse is complicated, which is why we’re doing a webinar today at 4:00 MT to help equip you for these conversations. In the meantime, here are some ways to help your teen develop a healthy lifestyle at home.

Offer a better way

Our kids are anxious over the things they can’t control right now. Proms have been canceled, their social lives are on pause, the job market is extremely uncertain…the list goes on. But we have the chance to show them the things they can control, and ways to keep them mentally healthy and turning to the right places at this time. Here are just a few ways we can encourage our teens to take ownership.

  1. Clean up. There’s a trend on Tiktok where users record themselves cleaning their spaces and making a really cozy space to rest in. It’s amazing how refreshed, rejuvenated, and joyful we can feel when we take the time to make our space a priority. Encourage your teen to do the same! And if it’s a big job, get in there and help them with it. A clean space is a clean mind, as they say.
  2. Help them to develop a good daily routine. Another trend on TikTok features users’ daily routines. This can mean anything for your teen specifically. Wake up, set out a comfy outfit, have a good breakfast, workout, do school work, tidy up, take the dog for a walk, etc. Routines help us to stay centered and level, especially at a time where nothing else is really within our control.
  3. Encourage their creativity. One thing that we’ve all heard by now is that quarantine is a gift, a much needed time to do everything we’ve ever wanted to do. That might feel like a lot of pressure! But there is great value in utilizing our time well instead of just waiting for the hours to pass in boredom. Encourage your teen to follow their creativity. Maybe there’s one thing that’s sparked their interest that they could pursue, like learning calligraphy, redesigning their room, writing a story, getting a sketchbook and drawing, or finally mastering the handstand. Whatever it is, support them in it and enable them to do something fun and creative to take their minds off of everything going on.
  4. Become a source of support. It’s always important that our kids know we’re supporting them, but it’s become especially important now as the entire world is sharing in the frustrations and fears of this virus. Make space for your kid to open up and share their heart and emotions. Don’t wait for them to come to you; be the initiator and verbalize your support for them. Maybe even talk about some of the ways this has been a tough time for you. They may not share with you right away, but they’ll at least be affirmed in knowing that they can go to you at any time.
  5. Encourage devotional times. Of course, we want to support our kids the best we can, but there is no greater source of comfort than the Father. Some families have set aside intentional time to spend with the Lord together. If that doesn’t work for your family, that’s perfectly okay. Talk with your teen about the ways they can spend time with God that’s personal and meaningful for them. There are illustrated journaling bibles, devotionals (like this one, or this one), prayer and meditation methods, and more. Find what speaks to your kid, and encourage them to pursue that in quarantine.

In everything that’s going on with our world, it’s more important than ever to pursue health as a family, and as individuals. The lure of substance use and abuse is very real, and if you worry or discover that your kid is starting to go down that road, take time to think and pray about it, instead of reacting in anger. Substance abuse is often just a symptom of deeper issues. Reassure them that you love and support them no matter what. And again, don’t forget to check out our free webinar on drug use among teens, where we’ll unpack these issues in a lot more detail. 

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