When and Where to Get Help
So when do you know it's reached a point your child needs outside help? And where is that help? It's good information for parents to know, even if they never need it.
Girls experiment. So chances are your daughter has sipped a beer or even puffed on a joint. But it's when it becomes habit that you need true help. Habit would mean, more than once a month, or to such an extreme that she loses the ability to control her situation. Some parents are shocked when their never-drinking daughter is rushed to an ER with alcohol poisoning. This is not a time to say “she just didn't know.” That kind of inebriation calls for immediate intervention. Remember, addiction can start young, and if you can help your child stay ahead of it, you may just help her avoid it.
There is no such thing as overreacting in this situation. If you insist on getting professional help and you're told that she's fine, you've only erred on the side of caution. To wait too long would be the wrong choice.
You may pick up on your daughter's drug use from rumors, or you may have caught her more than a few times. Whatever the case, once you see a pattern or an overuse, it is time to act. She may tell you that you are crazy: all the other kids drink or smoke way more than she does. Let her know that, as in all cases, you don't care about what any other girl is doing. It is her welfare and future you are charged with, and you will act accordingly. You love her, and you'll do what you have to in order to know she's growing up in a healthy and safe way. If she fights that help, you may need to involve the courts. Minors can be forced into programs and to get help. The courts are actually there to help you. But don't go into it blind. Hire a family attorney who can make sure it ends up being a good thing for you and your daughter, and not a nightmare.
While your first call may be to your primary caregiver, he will refer you to a specialist. Dealing with addictions requires a specialist's care. Do ask your primary care team for a referral to a counselor or program that helps girls in your daughter's situation. She'll need someone skilled and caring who knows just how to help girls work past the issues your daughter is facing. It may also be that counseling alone is not enough. Rehab is a familiar concept to teens today, thanks to young Hollywood, but their vision of it may be warped. It's not a place to dash in and out of for a rest; it's a place where a teen works hard to change her life. If you are faced with deciding to put your child in such a place, look for references that matter. If you know of another teen who has been to such a program and done well, reach out to the parent. You'll be surprised how much one who feels your pain is willing to help.
It might even be vital for you to make some big changes in her life. If her crowd and lifestyle at the school she's at are never going to change, consider a different school. But don't change schools on a whim. Talk to the possible new school about the reasons you want to move her and the issues she has grappled with. It's like the old saying: the grass isn't always greener. You don't want to move her and lead her to think that she can just leave her problems behind. You'll need to back that move with the right program and/or counseling to help her get a clean start.