The vast expanses of free time during summer vacation offer many wonderful opportunities to teens: new experiences, travel, new social connections, and otherwise time to decompress from a busy school year. Unfortunately, some teens may not use their free time in such a wholesome manner. Teens who have already been struggling with stress or mental health issues may be more tempted to fall into unhealthy behavior patterns without the routine and structure the school day offers them.
The life of a teenager is full of changes, stress and social tensions. During this period, teens may be exposed to new social circles and experiences that were previously not possible. Experimentation with substances like cigarettes, alcohol and drugs may suddenly be an option. Teens who lack the skills to cope with social pressure and the stress of their lives are more likely to be drawn into addictive patterns, and in these cases, their repeated use of these substances can cause them physical, emotional, neurological and developmental harm, sometimes resulting in permanent damage.
Substance abuse isn’t the only type of addiction, however. Behavioral addiction to eating, computers, internet, illicit video watching, gambling, and other activities, as well as addiction to inappropriate or harmful relationships, can be equally destructive.
How Do I Know If My Teen Is at Risk?
Teens who may be at higher risk for addiction include:
Kids who struggle academically: Students who take their studies seriously have less time to devote to social activities, so a teen who is struggling academically is more likely to spend time with other students for whom studying is not a priority—students who are struggling on other fronts, such as kids who have been suffered abuse, kids from dysfunctional homes or kids who are coping with illness or a death in the family. These social circles often skip school, and they may bring drugs or alcohol to their meetings, since they may be turning to these vices to numb their pain.
Kids who are socially isolated: Some teens struggle to make social connections. These kids may turn to other activities for fulfillment that don’t require social interaction: computer games, viewing inappropriate videos on the internet, gambling websites, overeating or alcohol consumption while the parents aren’t home.
Kids with anger issues: Teens are volatile creatures by nature and angry outbursts can be expected. They are known to sometimes lash out rudely at parents, teachers or peers, and they have a natural inclination to push limits. This is all a normal and healthy part of building their personalities and differentiating themselves from their parents. However, if these angry outbursts are exaggerated in frequency or intensity, this may be a sign of extreme emotional distress. A teen at risk may be violent toward his parents or siblings, get in trouble with the law, disrupt public order or ignore the rules at school or in society.
The perfect but distant teen: Even a teen who seems perfect in every way—excelling at school, socially active and cooperative—may be hiding a lot of secrets. If she is often absent from home, especially overnight, and gives evasive answers about where she’s been going, there’s a chance that she’s spending that time in unsavory company. In extreme cases, girls who seem perfectly well-adjusted on the outside are leading secret lives involving abusive relationships. These girls may cope with their pain through self-harm, such as eating disorders or self-cutting, hiding her scars under her clothes. Unfortunately, religious and charedi kids are not immune from this type of behavior. Beis Yakov girls too can get involved in clandestine relationships with men which can cause serious psychological damage.
What Can You Do About It?
The best medicine is, of course, prevention. Laying a foundation of healthy communication, starting from early childhood, is the best way to keep your child safe. Your child should feel that he can approach you when he’s struggling and that you will love and support him unconditionally and help him find solutions. A home atmosphere in which all feelings are validated and everyone feels safe to express themselves is one in which addiction is unlikely to flourish.
If you suspect that your child is struggling, get help—not just for her, but for you. There are numerous resources you can turn to, from hotlines to mental health professionals to addiction centers. Getting your child to stop the destructive behavior isn’t enough; to prevent the problem from repeating itself, you need to treat it at its core. A comprehensive treatment plan will involve helping your teen develop healthier ways to cope with the stresses of life, and provide guidance for you as well—to lay a stronger foundation of healthy communication and help you work through your own struggles so you can best support your teen.
About Mercaz Ksharim
Mercaz Ksharim is a warm and welcoming addiction therapy center in Modiin for adults who suffer from addiction and for their families. In addition to helping teens and their parents cope with the threat of addiction, they offer a unique program that gives hope for addicts to lead a new and better life.
Ksharim specializes in treating adults who are addicted to computers, gambling, illicit videos and relationships. They have a special program for spouses of addicts and a program to help young women addicted to harmful relationships with men.
The staff includes highly experienced and fully-qualified therapists who are sensitive to the needs of the religious community.
For more information on Ksharim visit their website www.ksharim-center.org or contact them at 058-7004846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.