Leaving the Nest and Substance Abuse: What Parents Need to Know

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Your child is moving away from home. It’s a milestone for a young adult, and for parents as well. It’s exciting to see your child take the first step in living independently, but there are also concerns, especially in the area of potential substance abuse.

Does Your Child Have a Mental Health Issue?

Psychiatric disorders can be serious or disabling. A mental health disorder, like depression, can lead to problems with attending school or going to work. Many people seek relief from distressing symptoms of mental health disorders by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, which may lead to substance abuse problems.

Recovery from a psychiatric illness requires effective treatment, without delay, in a supportive and stable living situation. Until recovery is underway, moving out should probably be put on the back burner.

Is Your Child an Introvert?

Young adults moving from a stable and loving family home have an excellent launching pad. But if your child is an introvert, the loss of a secure and supportive home environment may negatively impact their life.1

Leaving the Nest and Substance Abuse What Parents Need to Know

Stress and anxiety can lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. It’s important to talk to your child about their expectations. Realistic expectations prevent normal life adjustments from turning into high-stress situations.

Remind your child that self-care isn’t being selfish. We all need to listen to our bodies and minds for signals of increased stress. Ask your child to reach out when rising stress levels aren’t being managed in healthy ways.

Also, family members may want to visit a bit more frequently at the start of your child’s independence. Frequent visits help create a safe haven and lower stress levels during this time of major changes.

Does Your Child Have Past Substance Use Issues?

Some children are better off with parental monitoring. Other children prefer more freedom because they feel their substance use isn’t a major issue2. Keep a close parental eye on your child, without being overbearing, so you can spot signs of use potentially turning into abuse.

If you believe there may be a serious, ongoing problem with alcohol or drugs, encourage your young adult to stay at home and seek treatment. If your child has had substance use or abuse issues in the past, consider close monitoring when they leave the nest.

Remind Your Child That Returning Home Is Not Failure

Your child may decide, after leaving the nest, that it was a premature move. It’s possible that financial problems or roommate issues cause them to return home. Maybe your child wasn’t emotionally ready for independent living. It’s also a possibility that substance abuse was—or is—out of control, and they need treatment. Explore the reasons with your child to decide the best ways to move forward.


References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-in-between/201407/moving-out-leads-anxiety-introverts
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-do-life/201406/should-you-leave-the-nest