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How Do I Encourage My Child to Seek Alcohol Abuse Treatment?

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As parents, we feel obligated to care for our children and to protect them from harm. When your child is abusing alcohol it can feel impossible to keep them safe and that often results in parents pushing harder for their children to enter treatment.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days

  • 35% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 21% binge drank.
  • 10% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 22% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

But brute force isn’t the best way to get your child into an alcohol rehab program. Even though you want to exert all the pressure you can, that method often fails. If your child is 17 or younger, you do have the right to force them into treatment, but even in that scenario, success will be dependent upon your child showing some willingness to participate and be treated.

Keep the following things in mind when trying to get your child into a treatment program. If you need help navigating the process, call at 800-654-0987 and speak with someone today.

Try an Intervention

Because you need a level of willingness on the part of your child, seeking professional help or independently organizing an intervention can help your child to see the toll their alcohol abuse is taking on each member of the family and on the family as a whole.

During the intervention—and at other times—be very clear about when the addiction is doing to you. Present the information from your point of view: “I am scared that you are going to drive drunk and end up dead or killing another person.” Or, “I miss the child I used to have.”


Listen to your child. Listen to treatment facility staff. Listen to yourself. Be sure that you aren’t asking leading questions to get the answers that you want and expect. Instead, remain open and actively listening as much as possible. Your child will be carrying a lot of weight from their addiction and they will want to share. Listen to their sharing completely, rather than waiting for them to say “rehab.” When your child is in treatment, be equally open. Don’t look to staff as an instant answer machine. Be aware that they might offer answers you didn’t even have the questions to ask for.

Stop Enabling Your Child

You may already have cut off your child’s access to funds, resources, and drinking opportunities. You know that providing these things helps your child to continue drinking without consequence. But, there is another type of enabling that may be going on as well: empty threats. Avoid using alcohol abuse treatment as a punishment. Additionally, don’t threaten to cut off resources unless your child goes to treatment without following through.

Both situations are going to be hard on you; it’s as much tough love for you as for your child. The natural thing is to want to help and to want to believe that changes are going to be made. But, those changes need the support of dedicated, professional treatment, so keep your promises. If you argue that you will not give your child money until they have finished rehab, mean it. And, don’t ever use rehab as a threat. This just adds another layer of resistance.

Be Prepared

When your child finally expresses a desire to go into treatment, get them there as quickly as possible. One way to speed up the process is to do research on your available options as soon as you recognize a problem; this can save time. Also, be ready to transport your child and be sure to drive directly to the treatment facility. Do not make any stops for a final drink.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asserts: “Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.” For parents of minors abusing alcohol, this can be sobering. But, it is equally important to parents of adults who began their relationship with alcohol early.

Whether your child is a minor or a legal adult, their abuse of alcohol is a detriment to their life and the lives of those around them. The best thing you can do is to be honest with them about your fears and feelings, remain open to what they have to say, and be prepared to get them into treatment the minute they are ready. IF you would like help researching treatment programs, call at 800-654-0987 and talk with someone who can help.