Mental Health, Substance Use, Children and the Holidays

The holidays are a perfect time for parents to address alarming behaviors they may have missed

Most people look at the holidays as a happy season, a season where you can catch up with loved ones and friends you haven’t seen all year. However, this time of year can be the most stressful and dangerous for those with mental health and addiction issues.

Think about it. You may be worrying about buying gifts for everyone on your list, trying to decide what to wear to that holiday office party or having your in-laws stay at your house for a week. Children and young adults, who are suffering from drug abuse and other mental health problems, can use the holiday stress we all experience to intensify their own destructive behaviors. Coupled with free time away from school, the opportunities are endless for them to feed the beast. Drug abuse can seem like a logical escape from the drama for many teens. 

Most treatment programs see an uptick in clients starting in November. This is because many teens and young adults end their fall semesters and are home for winter break. This vacation away from school allows those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness to escalate their destructive behavior by overindulging in holiday parties and by spending more time with old friends with bad habits.

Parents who may have missed some of the red flags of mental health problems and addiction are apt to pay more attention to their child simply because they are home more. They may notice their son or daughter, who has been away at college, has become withdrawn or aggressive. They may notice more overt signs, such as drinking more than usual at a family gathering. Be on the look out for isolation, as it could also be a sign something is wrong.

Parents should try to be engaged in their children’s lives year-round, but sometimes this is easier said than done. Being engaged does not necessarily mean knowing their email passwords or stalking their Facebook. It can be as simple as keeping an open channel of communication for your child to reach out to you for help with problems.

Addiction and mental health problems are problems that affect the entire family. Therefore, all members of the family should be part of the recovery process.

The holidays aren’t just a time for parents to notice new behaviors in their children. It is also a very challenging time for those who are in recovery. Many studies note that nearly half of recovering addicts will relapse during the holiday season. With an abundance of alcohol and friends around, triggers are everywhere.

Oftentimes, even the notion of the holidays can send someone into depression as it may force them to confront memories they haven’t necessarily dealt with during the rest of the year.

The holidays serve as a perfect opportunity for parents to spend more time with their children and address alarming behaviors that they may have missed during the year. For recovering addicts, it should be a time for families to band together and learn to celebrate in different and new ways that support sobriety and build love and trust.

Find out more about substance abuse treatment options: FRBH Substance Abuse Services

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