Possibilities in Parenting

Stephanie McCune, PhD(c), Vancouver Island Health Authority on February 25, 2013

As a youth and family counsellor I have been involved in many conversations with parents. Most of the parents I meet are concerned about their son or daughter’s involvement with alcohol and/or other drugs. Often parents wonder about what they call “right”, “wrong”, or even “perfect” ways to parent through some of the concern they are faced with. Many describe a feeling of “walking on eggshells” around their teen’s relationship with substances, as well as  hesitancy and pressure trying to determine whether they are doing the “right” or “wrong” thing in response to the substance use.

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a parent who was worried about her responses to her teen’s involvement with alcohol. As we were talking she started to imagine additional ways to parent—different strategies, ideas, and opinions. We found ourselves noticing that there really is no one “perfect” way to parent. We began to shift our conversation to explore where the idea of “best” answers or “perfect” responses to our parenting dilemmas about adolescent substance use had come from.  At the end of the conversation we were both able to nod in agreement that every youth and every family is different. Different cultural backgrounds, different experiences, different values, different areas of concerns, might mean different fits for what approaches and strategies people have about parenting a teen involved in substance use.

From this conversation, and the many others I have been a part of, I have learned that there can be numerous ideas about what could be responses to a son or daughter’s substance use. Instead of limiting ideas to one ideal of “perfect” or “right”, I have found that there can be tremendous possibility and potential in the option of being able to draw from multiple perspectives.  Parenting is often an experiential process, as we learn from our encounters with unique situations we also learn and develop our own unique approaches. As I have come to recognize the benchmarks of success that many parents encounter through their parenting experience I wonder, if we moved beyond the extremes of right, wrong, or perfect, what additional possibilities might exist for parenting an adolescent involved in substance use?.

Last year I was involved in a project through the Vancouver Island Health Authority developing a resource for parents and other caregivers influenced by their teen’s involvement with substances. The resource offers a multitude of ideas and perspectives as well as space to generate what new or alternative responses may be a fit for the uniqueness of each individual’s experience. Check it out at: www.viha.ca/NR/rdonlyres/2CC6E168-D562-440B-B906-0DFEB72CE470/0/recognizingresilience.pdf

Stephanie is a Youth and Family Counsellor & Educator with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Discovery Youth and Family Services team.

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