Tag Archive: Teen

  1. Keeping Your Teen Busy This Summer

    Leave a Comment

    Keeping Your Teen Busy This Summer

    Staying busy is an important component of preventing relapse. Yet during the summer, adolescents have plenty of free time and often less supervision than during the school year. How do you support your teen in staying sober while they have all of this extra time? How do you keep your teen busy this summer?

    Create a Daily Schedule Together

    Before the summer begins, sit down with your teen and discuss your mutual expectations for the summer. Are there daily chores that need to be completed? Are they expected to work outside of the home or attend school? Are there vacation plans already on the calendar? What are their expectations? What do they want to accomplish this summer? What are the things they want to do?

    Once you have the larger expectations hammered out, create a daily schedule together that you both agree upon. Include a wake-up time and a time when chores should be completed, as well as when they should be available for family meals or other activities. Ideally, this schedule should fill up your teen’s day so that they do not have a lot of downtime. Certainly, it can be flexible, but the idea is to keep them busy.

    Have a System in Place for Accountability

    How will they be accountable for completing their daily tasks? Will they check in with you by text or phone? Check-in with a neighbor or other family member? Will they receive privileges for completing tasks? You know your child best, and you know your situation best. Develop a system that not only allows your teen to feel responsible but also holds them accountable for their time and their actions. Accountability is a vital component of your teen’s recovery.

    Ideas for Structured Social Activities

    For teens who would be more successful with some structure or supervision, even when you are working, there are plenty of activities that will keep them busy and offer them opportunities to socialize as well. When these are presented as opportunities rather than punishments, they are likely to be more well-received by your teen.

    • Summer Job–for the teen who is ready for the responsibility, a summer job is a great way to learn responsibility and bring in some income as well. As a bonus, they improve their social skills and their resumé in the process.
    • Sports or Performing Arts–finding a program for them to participate in a sport, performing art, or other hobby that they enjoy is a great way to keep them busy, build talents and skills, and give them social opportunities at the same time.
    • Volunteer Organizations–delivering meals to elderly people, helping kids at the libraries or day camps, helping with pets in shelters, and other worthy causes are great ways to build self-worth and keep your teen busy simultaneously.
    • Church or Other Social Groups–many organizations offer teen or youth activities that are free or low-cost throughout the summer and help your child socialize with other teens in outdoor or recreational activities.
    • College or Enrichment Classes–local or community colleges often offer summer classes for credit or enrichment that are available to high school students and offer unique and fun learning opportunities that keep your teen busy and invested throughout the summer.

    Be a Good Neighbor

    Do you have neighbors who need their lawns mowed? Dogs walked? Other household chores or babysitting? Your teen could stay busy by helping neighbors on a regular basis, as a service or for pay. Your neighbors get work done that they need, plus maybe a little companionship, and your teen has more to do where they are engaged and supervised regularly. Being a good neighbor benefits you as well.

    Make Plans to Have Fun

    In the midst of all of these other plans, do not forget to make plans to have fun as a family. Plan a camping trip or other family outing. Explore your local area, go on a hike, or just have a picnic together. Do that painting or fix-up project you have been talking about, but do it together. Your teen may not like these activities, but they will help improve your relationships as a family.

    Make one night every week family night. Have dinner together, play board games, or watch movies, taking turns choosing the menu, game, or movie. Dress up. Dance or even just enjoy music together. Even better, let your teen come up with the activity and use their skills and talents to help bring the family together. Just do not forget to plan time to have fun together as a family this summer.

    Keeping your teen busy this summer can involve creating a daily schedule together along with a system for accountability. Whether they take classes, find a summer job, or volunteer, they can find value and worth in staying busy. Also, remember to make time to have fun as a family to improve relationships. Sustain Recovery understands the importance of the family in the recovery process. We know that your involvement and support are crucial to your teen’s healing and can make a difference in helping prevent a relapse this summer by keeping them busy and fulfilled. Our extended residential program in Irvine, California, helps teens identify the root causes of their behaviors, and we help them learn accountability as they heal from substance abuse. Contact us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is the right program for your family.

  2. How Can I Tell My Teen I Love Them So They Hear Me?

    Leave a Comment

    How Can I Tell My Teen I Love Them So They Hear Me?

    As a parent or guardian, you may assume that your child knows that you love them. After all, they live with you, and you provide their food, clothing, phone, hobbies and activities, transportation, and more. Providing for them should be a physical manifestation that they understand, right? Many parents even say “I love you” on a daily basis. Yet too many teens do not feel loved or do not understand the degree to which you love them. How can you tell your teen that you love them so they hear you?

    When Words Are Not Enough

    Whether you are a parent who communicates your love to your teen or one who takes for granted your child knows you love them, sometimes words are just not enough. In the screen-driven, social media-filled, self-absorbed world that adolescents are often sucked into today, they may not even hear your words. Their lives are filled with pressure to excel academically from well-meaning adults; they feel pressure from social media to look a certain way or from peers to participate in activities that are potentially dangerous, including using substances. Your words can get lost when they are trying to find themselves amongst all of this noise.

    While it is important to express your love verbally, sometimes the words become empty after being said repeatedly over time. For example, if saying “I love you” is a habit when they leave the house or go to bed, they may presume that it is merely a habit and that you don’t actually mean it. Sometimes, words are simply not enough.

    Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Your demonstrations of love will be infinitely more powerful than all of the words you say. When you say that you love your child but do not back those words up with your actions, they will sense the duplicity and may not believe you.

    As teens grow and change, the way you express your love for them should change as well. They likely will not want public displays of affection; in fact, they may not want to be seen in public with you at all. This does not mean that they do not return your love. As they are maturing and breaking away from you to become an adult in their own right, respecting their boundaries is important. Yet they still need to know that you love them. They may even still let you hug them, but only at home.

    Daily Ideas to Say ‘I Love You’ Effectively

    Teens need to have love expressed daily through actions, usually in different ways from how you expressed your love when they were younger. There are many ways you can actively demonstrate your love to your teen, including:

    • Make time for them
    • Turn off your phone
    • Offer choices rather than make decisions for them
    • Show up for their sports, hobbies, or interests
    • Prioritize their needs
    • Set aside your stress to be present for them
    • Offer consistency and structure
    • Listen to them

    Learn Their Love Language

    Another way for your teen to feel your love for them is to learn their love language. What is it they enjoy doing? What activities or interests are important to them? What can you do that will be meaningful to them because they know it is unique to their needs, and you are not just pretending to care? Do they like to go for ice cream? Play video games? Listen to music? Go for walks? Cook (or eat) new foods? You do not have to infringe on the activities they share with their friends, but you can find something that is important to them that you can share together.

    Saying ‘I Love You’ by Not Saying Anything at All

    The best way to allow your teen to truly hear you is actually by not saying anything at all. Listening to them lets them know you love them more than all of the words you can say. Truly taking the time, being there for them, and being present whenever they need to talk is the ultimate demonstration that you truly care about them.

    As parents, you may be brimming with wisdom and life experiences. Your child, though, wants to be heard. They are more likely to benefit from your wisdom when they ask for it than when it is unsolicited advice. Knowing when to listen and when to speak can be one of the biggest challenges of raising a teenager, but when in doubt, listening is going to be the best choice a majority of the time.

    How can I tell my teen that I love them, so they hear me? Actions speak louder than words, so making time for them and being present will show you care. Learning what is important to them and taking time to actually listen to them can also help them to understand how deeply you love them. At Sustain Recovery, we know the value of respecting and listening to your teen. We also know that providing consistency and structure for them helps them to feel safe and always know what to expect, even when they do not always like it. Our extended residential treatment program for teens with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health diagnoses offers the opportunity for them to return to their life with support from both our program and their community. Contact us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for your family.

  3. How Can I Help My Teen Prevent a Relapse?

    Leave a Comment

    How Can I Help My Teen Prevent a Relapse?

    Families who are not familiar with addiction recovery may be surprised to learn that you cannot just send your child to a facility for a period of time, and then they come back completely healed. Approximately half of all people who receive treatment for addiction will relapse within the first year. Staying in recovery is very hard, and your teen is going to need the support of the entire family. How can you help your teen prevent a relapse?

    Educate the Family About Relapse Prevention

    The first step that you and your family should make is to educate yourselves about relapse prevention. What is a trigger? What is a craving? What are some common reasons that people relapse? What are some things that you can do specifically to help prevent your teen from relapsing?

    A trigger is a person, place, event, memory, or something that triggers them to want to use substances again. A craving is a physiological event in the brain that creates a powerful urge to use a substance. Some of the common reasons that people relapse include not doing their daily self-care routines or having an intense emotional experience, such as a fight or breakup.

    Supporting Proactive Relapse Prevention

    As a family, you can support proactive steps to prevent a drug or alcohol relapse. An important strategy is to help your teen avoid triggers. Keeping them busy doing active things such as offering to exercise with them will help reduce cravings and fill in time they might be tempted to think about using. You can also support them in activities like eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water. Being actively involved in their recovery is a great way to support your teen and prevent relapse.

    Watching for Signs of Emotional Relapse

    Most people emotionally relapse prior to a physical relapse. They might return to old habits or stop being proactive about their recovery, but they have not yet returned to substance use. These signs are important to be aware of because you can catch the behavioral changes before a physical relapse. Ways your adolescent could emotionally relapse include:

    • Dwelling on memories associated with prior substance use
    • Engaging with people or places from that time
    • Forgetting to exercise
    • Not sleeping well
    • Not going to support meetings
    • Withdrawing from family or friends
    • Stopping medications or other prescribed treatments
    • Obvious changes in mood or habits

    Learning Relapse Prevention and Coping Skills

    One of the most powerful skills you can give to your child is helping them to identify when a craving is happening and be able to communicate that to you.

    • Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) – many cravings happen when people are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Taking care to avoid these situations is ideal, but it is also important to identify and remedy the situation when a craving comes along.
    • Urge Surfing – based on the idea that a craving always has a beginning, a crest or peak, and then an end, closing eyes and “riding” the urge in the mind like a wave can help get through it without giving in.
    • Mindfulness – mindfulness is training the mind to simply notice what is happening in the moment without judgment. This allows your child to endure without reacting or acting upon a craving.
    • Breathing Techniques – breathing brings more oxygen to the brain and body, and focusing on breathing takes the focus from the craving.
    • Distraction – using a physical distraction such as doing jumping jacks or using an ice-cold washcloth or other distraction until the craving is gone.
    • Five senses grounding – counting backward using the five senses to identify things around you: five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste.
    • Play the tape through – when thinking about using a substance, play through everything that will happen if you do, then about the consequences of using/not using.

    Making a Plan and Communicating

    Communication as a family is essential to supporting relapse prevention. How will your teen help you know they are having a craving? Is there a plan to deal with cravings as they come up? What are the techniques that work best for your child? You may want to make a list and post it on the refrigerator or somewhere so that family members can refer to it.

    Preventing a relapse is being proactive in supporting your adolescent’s daily recovery, as well as learning how to help them avoid triggers. Being able to help them through it when a craving hits is also part of relapse prevention. When you and your family are attentive, supportive, and can communicate well, you can work as a team to prevent relapse.

    You and your family can be an integral part of your teen’s support system in preventing an addiction relapse. By learning about the signs to watch for, the coping mechanisms to help them in difficult moments, as well as offering daily support for recovery, your family can help your child continue a successful recovery. At Sustain Recovery, we teach teens how to find the underlying problems that are causing their substance abuse. Our extended residential program treats teens with substance abuse and also those with co-occurring mental health diagnoses. We are located in Irvine, California, and offer a program that teaches structure and accountability. We create opportunities for our clients to connect with people who can support them in their communities when they leave our program because we care about their recovery beyond their time with us. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for your child. 

  4. Creating Consistent Expectations for Your Adolescent

    Leave a Comment

    Parents usually have the best of intentions, especially when setting guidelines and boundaries for their children. However, when they are stretched by the stressors caused by work, finances, relationships, and the behaviors of their children, consistency in parenting can be difficult to maintain. Although it can be challenging at times, creating and maintaining consistent expectations for your adolescent actually helps them to feel more in control of their lives.

    Pushing Boundaries vs. Pushing Back

    For children to push boundaries is completely normal. In fact, if your adolescent is pushing boundaries, that means that they are becoming more independent and preparing to be an adult. However, the adolescent brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25, and the last functions to develop are rational thinking, decision making, and awareness of consequences, so they obviously still need boundaries to keep them safe.

    One of the consequences of inconsistent parenting is that after being pushed so long, a parent will push back with sudden, harsh consequences. Particularly when these behaviors have not had the same consequences before, it leaves the adolescent confused and can cause resentment. This, in turn, can lead to more behaviors and acting out. While parents may think that being strict in certain situations is helpful, it is more important to be consistent.

    What Is the Difference Between Being Strict vs. Being Consistent?

    Your child may tell everyone that you are a strict parent, no matter what you do. However, “strict” parents typically have a lot of rules, exercise more control and intervention within their child’s lives, and impose more consequences as well. Even with the best of intentions, this approach can backfire, as your child will feel as though they have no control over their life.

    Creating consistent expectations does not have a set amount of rules, as some children need more boundaries than others. A consistent parent sets clear boundaries and consequences with their child and then maintains them. Consistency can be considered to be like making and keeping a promise to your child. Even if the “promise” is a consequence for behaviors, you are doing what you said you would do, and that actually builds trust and confidence in you as a parent.

    Preventative Parenting

    Too often, parenting becomes reactive. A child exhibits a behavior, and the parent reacts with a consequence that was not anticipated by the child. While not all behaviors can be anticipated, there is much that parents can do to prevent these situations. Some of the best ways to parent preventatively include:

    • Creating Schedules – sitting down with your child and creating a schedule with them is not only an important life skill, but helps them to have a plan and understand what is coming next. When a child has nothing to do, they are more likely to find trouble.
    • Clear Expectations – when parents set boundaries, it is important that they are very clear and that the child understands them. A curfew, for example, sets a clear expectation of when they are expected to be home. As with anything else, these expectations need to be consistent and maintained.
    • Choose Your Battles – behaviors with serious risks or consequences are worth standing your ground on. Adolescents still need some autonomy, though, or they will never learn to make their own decisions, so choosing your battles is very important.

    The Value of Creating a United Front

    The concept of one parent saying no and the child going to the other parent to try to get what they want is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Children know when they can manipulate their parents, so creating a united front is crucial to consistent parenting. Getting everyone on the same page can be very difficult, particularly in families where there is separation or divorce, but being able to provide that consistency allows your child to understand the consequences of their actions before the behaviors occur.

    Consistency Puts Adolescents in Control

    When your child understands that “if I do this, then that will happen,” internally they understand that the choices they make are their own. When parents impose consequences consistently, no matter how hard children push the boundaries, they learn the value of making good choices.

    Although it may feel like a constant battle for parents, creating consistent expectations is kind of like a security blanket. Your child knows that you will always treat them fairly based on their choices, and that increases feelings of trust and love. They may still push the boundaries constantly, but knowing that you will consistently offer the same consequences allows them to learn accountability for their own choices. Creating consistent expectations puts adolescents in control.

    Creating consistent expectations as a parent can be very difficult to maintain; however, adolescents feel more in control when they understand the consequences of their behaviors. No matter how hard your child pushes the boundaries, staying consistent gives them the opportunity to make their own choices and become accountable for their actions. Creating structure and consistency is the foundation of the Sustain program. We offer extended residential treatment for adolescents so that we can help your child learn consistency. Our approach is to help them learn accountability and understand why they are making choices. Our Orange County, California, program offers multiple levels of care for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health diagnoses. We also help connect them with others during and after treatment and have alumni involvement as well to help them with long-term success. Call us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for your child.

  5. How Can I Earn the Respect of Non-Compliant Adolescents?

    Leave a Comment


    Adolescents with substance abuse or mental health diagnoses can be difficult to reach. Some clients use their behaviors to avoid treatment to such an extent that they are considered “non-compliant.” As a professional, such behaviors are usually a cry for help, but how do you reach a client who does not seem to want help? How can you earn the respect of non-compliant adolescents?

    The Behavior Is Not the Problem

    How often are adolescents labeled as “bad,” “troubled,” “at-risk,” or more? Too often adolescents have learned that negative attention is still attention. Creating behaviors to deflect from their actual pain and struggles allows them to live down to others’ expectations of them.

    The behaviors themselves are not the problem, however. Substance abuse and mental health diagnoses are not even the actual problem, they are simply diagnoses of the symptoms. Their actual problems are often emotional pain from physical or emotional trauma, serious problems with family, and more. The more distracting the behaviors, the easier it is to simply consider them “difficult” or “non-compliant.” Digging deeper, they are all still human beings, and their behaviors are standing in the way of getting help to heal from their emotional wounds.

    Listen and Observe to Find the Whys

    Behaviors are like puzzles. When you are willing to watch and listen carefully, slowly but surely you can find the whys, or the motivations for their behaviors. Often the adolescents themselves have no idea why they are acting out, using substances, or are unwilling to comply with any form of treatment. This makes it even more important as a professional to listen and observe closely.

    For most adolescents, there is no easy answer, no “aha!” moment where all of their behaviors disappear. Finding answers is more like peeling the layers of an onion, and requires incredible patience. Some adolescents will even increase their behaviors as you get closer to their truths. While this can be very discouraging and frustrating as a professional, remembering why you chose this path and the success stories you have can help you to maintain motivation.

    Offer Adolescents Reasonable Choices

    Simply telling an adolescent “no” is as effective as telling a toddler “no,” except adolescents throw bigger tantrums. Learning to offer consistent, reasonable choices to adolescents takes away the opportunities for distractions, but also gives them responsibility for their choices. Sure, they may only have a choice between something that is not fun and something that is really not fun, but you will gain respect when you hold them accountable for their choices.

    Developing respect and compliance is great in a small group setting, where adolescents can see that others making good choices are rewarded for those choices. Perhaps their initial response is still to act out or not be willing to comply, but eventually, they will want to receive the rewards or privileges for making good choices. Even if their motivation is only the benefit of the good choice, they start making good choices a habit, and eventually will learn that making good choices and receiving positive attention is better than negative attention.

    Giving Adolescents Control Without Giving up Control

    There is a false notion that offering an adolescent control of their own choices means giving up control as a clinician or professional. This concept is actually the opposite of true. As you give an adolescent the opportunity to make their own choices and also to accept the consequences of their choices, you gain more respect from them.

    Respect is far more powerful than the “control” that so many adults seek to impose on young people. An adolescent’s respect empowers both the youth and the adults who are offering them guidance to move past the behaviors, find the source of their pain, and help them to heal and move forward with greater success in life. This is how you can give young people control without giving up your own control.

    Respect Is a Two-Way Street

    As professionals, we sometimes forget that in asking for respect, we need to give respect. Whether you are working with a child, an adolescent, or a young adult, age does not preclude the necessity of offering the same respect that you are asking for. When you are able to effectively demonstrate your respect for your clients, they are more likely to treat you with respect in return.

    Non-compliance should not be confused for a lack of respect, either. Remember that an adolescent’s behaviors are about them, not you. When you can respect them, observe and listen to them, offer them choices and allow them to consistently receive the same consequences for their choices, you are more likely to be able to reach them, too.

    Earning the respect of adolescents with serious behavior issues or who are deemed “non-compliant” can seem like a battle, but it is really more about patience and respect. Remembering that the behavior is not the problem and not taking things personally will allow you to gradually earn respect and hopefully be able to help your client heal. The Sustain Recovery program is built around the concept that the substance abuse and mental health diagnoses are not the problem but rather the adolescent’s maladaptive solutions to the real problem. Our extended care program offers the opportunity for them to not only have more success in treatment but also be able to transition back into their homes and communities. Our staff are committed to providing evidence-based practices and the structure and opportunities for young people to become accountable. Call us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program can be the solution to your child or client’s needs.

  6. Finding Joy in Sobriety As a Teen

    Leave a Comment


    joy in recovery

    Many adults reflect back on their teenage years professing that it was the time of their life. If you’re an adolescent who is newly sober, you might not agree. How can I possibly have fun with my friends if I can no longer use substances? This question is one that we hear often.

    It’s totally understandable that you might be questioning your ability to fit in and have fun in the absence of substances. Sustain Recovery wants you to know that you can find joy in sobriety. Your life isn’t over because you cannot engage in substance use. In fact, you’ll find that there are opportunities for joy in places you may have never thought to look before.

    Your Life Isn’t Over

    For many people who have addictions, their social life and relaxation time before they entered treatment revolved around drinking alcohol or using drugs. This is especially true for adolescents who engage in substance use. Before treatment, you might have solely based your weekend plans on the opportunity to drink or use.

    It’s also not uncommon to form friendships with other people who use substances. But, now that you have gone through substance use treatment, your lifestyle has changed. You are now working on remaining sober. It can be daunting to return home after treatment where so much of your old lifestyle remains.

    Sustain Recovery is here to encourage you during this difficult time. We’re here to remind you that your life is just beginning! You can’t use substances anymore, but there are so many other opportunities to find joy and have fun in recovery. Now is the time to shift your focus from what have you lost to all that you have gained.

    Endless Opportunities Await You

    Keep your new mindset and goals in mind when you are searching for opportunities that will bring you a healthy dose of joy and fun. Substance use can sometimes stem from the need to feel connected to others. You may have felt pressured to use substances because your friends were using and you wanted to fit in.

    While that sense of connection isn’t going away, there are many other ways to feel connected that don’t involve substance use. Think about sober activities you enjoy. Whether it be playing sports, being creative, learning something new, or helping others, you can build connections through these activities.


    If you are looking for a way to make new friends in recovery, sports are a great place to start. There are leagues you can join if you enjoy playing sports, groups that meet up at local games to watch, and online communities that serve as a space to talk about, analyze, and debate sports of all kinds. Meeting and engaging with people who share your love for sports is a great way to build friendships and have fun without engaging in substance use.

    Get Creative

    There are also a plethora of creative activities to try in your recovery. From book clubs to gardening groups, there is a space for you if you enjoy being creative. Not only do these activities foster connection, they also help you find healthy ways to process and express your emotions. Allowing yourself to be creative gives you the space to be vulnerable — and vulnerability gives you the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with others who might be going through similar things as you.

    Learn Something New

    While school gives you the space to learn subjects like language, mathematics, or science, there may be other subjects that you are interested in exploring. Take advantage of your free time in recovery to learn something new. For example, you might be interested in learning how to code or how to cook.

    Check out materials from your local library that give you a step-by-step guide on learning to code or a cookbook with cultural recipes you’d love to try. Learning something new will challenge you in healthy ways and help you explore parts of yourself that were hidden by your addiction.

    Help Others

    One of the best things you can do when you’re struggling is to help others. Not only are you giving others hope when you volunteer, you will feel better about giving back to your community. If you love animals, check out a local shelter and ask how you can help.

    If you are a people person, find groups that help the elderly or those with disabilities. Volunteering can give you the opportunity to meet new people who share your passions. The joy you feel from helping others is something that you won’t find anywhere else.

    You Can Do This

    Giving yourself the space to find excitement in activities that don’t involve alcohol or drugs is necessary in your recovery. Try to let go of any anger you’re holding for not being able to use substances. There’s a whole world out there to explore if you are sober.

    You’ll meet new friends who share your beliefs and similar goals. You’ll find activities that thrill you beyond a buzz or high. Your recovery is going to be as joyful and fun as you make it. Keep an open mind and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Your life is just beginning.

    At Sustain Recovery, we can help you find the joy and fun that you are craving beyond substances. We provide the ideal environment for adolescents to begin their recovery in a serene, structured, and safe place. Let us help you overcome your addiction and show you how amazing life can be. To learn more, call us today at (949) 407-9052.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

© 2022 OCTLC Inc.