Holidays and Recovery: Help Your Teen Stay on Track with a Whole Family Approach

Whether your teenager is fighting addiction at home or is in treatment...

James Ekbatani
April 2, 2024

The holiday season can be incredibly stressful for families, especially when your teenager is battling substance abuse. At Lotus Behavioral Health, we understand the struggle, and we want you to know that you're not alone in this journey. Whether you have a teenager fighting addiction at home or a teen already in treatment, we're here to help you navigate through this holiday season with a whole-family approach.

For those in recovery, the winter holidays pose unique challenges. If you’re a parent helping your teen regulate mental health disorders, recover from alcohol or substance use disorders, and manage co-occurring conditions, it can be especially difficult to find balance when it comes to celebrating and maintaining the shared goal of holistic recovery.

The holiday season stirs up deep emotions for everyone, whether in recovery or not. A single word, a fleeting glance, or an unintended remark can stir intense feelings within all of us. These emotional triggers, affecting even those not in recovery, remind us of the importance of understanding and empathy.

This time of celebration can be particularly overwhelming for those committed to their recovery journey. Some 94% of respondents in recovery reported feeling significantly or moderately stressed during the holidays. As family and friends come together, the combination of emotions, stress, and the presence of substances like alcohol can increase the risk of relapse, which tends to be higher at this time of year.

If your teenager is on the path to recovery, it’s crucial to recognize that the holidays can be challenging for everyone. You have the opportunity to lead by example and can give extra thoughtfulness to those in recovery from substance or alcohol challenges.

Support to Stay Sober

The holiday season can be a challenging time when it comes to helping your teen stay sober. It’s important to remember that maintaining sobriety is a journey that involves taking it one day at a time and developing positive habits that strengthen self-discipline.

Your role as a parent is crucial, especially during the first few months and years of your teen’s sobriety. Offering support and encouragement and fostering hope is the most valuable contribution you can make as you aid in your teen’s recovery. You can help provide accountability and ensure your teen stays on track with their recovery programming, therapy, and daily healthy routines.

Having a trusted support network is one of the most valuable resources a person can have for their recovery journey. People are more likely to recover from their addiction if they have:

  • Stable family relationships
  • Approval and sympathy expressed by their families
  • Supportive friends
  • Friends who don’t use alcohol or other drugs and who encourage the person not to use
  • Peer support

Fostering an environment with open communication allows your teen the opportunity to voice their concerns and can help you both plan for a stress- and substance-free holiday. Teens may feel more comfortable if they have a fellow friend in recovery to celebrate the holidays with, making it easier for them to handle any potentially stressful situations.

Taking the time to talk with your teen can help them mentally prepare and avoid uncomfortable or risky situations. You can also educate family and friends about the recovery process, providing guidance for how to interact with your teen while they’re in recovery. As a parent, you can reduce holiday pressures by ensuring they have a backup plan and reminding your teen that you’ll always be there for them to help them.

Being a champion for your teen’s recovery is the best gift you can give during the holiday season, and going the extra mile to show your support means a lot. Let them know that you support their recovery and will do your best to take the focus off substances.

How You Can Help

As a parent, there are many ways you can help your teen maintain sobriety during the holiday season. Your teen might be feeling overwhelmed by family gatherings, school responsibilities, and social demands during the holidays, so acknowledging the difficulties of the season can give them comfort and help them prepare for the weeks ahead.

Some ways you can set your teen up for success during the holiday season include:

  • Encouraging your teen to continue with their healthy habits and to maintain their routine. Eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can keep them on their upward path throughout the holidays.
  • Setting clear boundaries can ensure your teen understands what’s expected from them during the holidays and encourages them to hold themselves accountable for meeting expectations.
  • Limiting technology use decreases the fear of missing out and can help teens focus on spending quality time with family and friends.
  • Reminding your teen to take breaks when needed and make time for self-care to reduce stress levels.
  • Taking your teen’s recovery seriously by being a role model, avoiding drinking around them, and removing alcohol from the refrigerator.
  • Creating new alcohol- and drug-free holiday rituals that can become lasting holiday memories.
  • Monitoring your teen's whereabouts during the holidays.
  • Encouraging your teen to be thankful for what they’ve accomplished by focusing on gratitude.

If your teen is struggling with addiction at home . . .

  1. Be present. This year’s celebration will be different than previous years, and you don’t need to pretend that everything is normal. Be available to support your teen but remember to give them and yourself space to process your feelings.
  2. Find peace and joy. Accepting your current reality and the unpredictability of addiction can feel overwhelming, but know that you can find peace and joy with what you have and that you will get through this.
  3. Count your blessings. Instead of focusing on setbacks, find gratitude in the small things and be thankful for your blessings that substance use can’t take away.

If your teen is already in treatment . . .

  1. Remind yourself that your teen is in the right place. It can be hard to be separated from your teen during the holidays, but know that your teen is where they’re supposed to be at a behavioral health center. They’re working hard to restore their health and get back on track so they can be a part of the holidays to come.
  2. Take some time to relax. While things may have been stressful the past year, you have the reassurance that your teen isn’t getting into trouble while in treatment. Use this time to relax and rest knowing they are safe in recovery.
  3. Stay on track. If you’re tempted to bring your teen home during this time, it’s important to remember that your teen needs treatment, and that removing them from treatment too soon can result in setbacks. Help them stay the course so they can have many more years of holidays together.

Let Us Help You Navigate the Holiday Season

At Lotus Behavioral Health, we’re committed to creating a nurturing and therapeutic environment to foster a healthy lifestyle in teen clients. We provide a well-rounded, evidence-based approach to teen drug rehab that includes assessment, four distinct levels of teen behavioral health services, individualized treatment options, and more.

If you are a parent of a teenager with a substance use disorder, reach out to the Lotus Behavioral Health team for additional information on our services and the different levels of care we offer at our adolescent treatment facility. You can start the process by visiting our Admissions page, where you can view more information about a complimentary brief assessment to determine eligibility.

For more information, contact Lotus Behavioral Health for an intake consultation at (833) 948-2273 or visit our website.