Recovery isn’t easy for anyone of any age, but teens may have a particularly hard time.
Teens in recovery are dealing with all of the usual teen stuff – raging hormones, social pressures, academic concerns, making plans for their future adult lives – on top of the ravages of addiction and the obstacles they encounter during recovery.
And to add to that, teens are not fully in control of their own lives.
Their parents or guardians still make decisions for them, which can mean that teens in recovery may not feel fully in charge of that process either.
Teens who make it through to a place where they’re feeling stronger and more positive need a lot of support to get there, and it’s natural that they’d want to find ways to show their appreciation to the loved ones that gave them that support.
Take a look at some of the ways that recovering teens can show their appreciation.
Do Some Chores
Let’s be real – parents of teens are looking for their children to do some dishes or vacuum the floor.
But parents of teens in recovery have almost certainly been doing some extra work in the process of supporting their children through their recovery.
Things like AA meetings, counseling sessions, meetings with school officials or teachers, and so on all come with some logistical issues – driving the teenager around, making phone calls, rearranging schedules to fit in a meeting.
What’s more, recovery isn’t necessarily free – if a teen’s been in rehab or is attending counseling, or if they need tutoring to catch up in school, there’s a good chance that a parent is working extra shifts to pay for that.
And on top of that, parents have to keep the household running.
So, a free and easy way for teens to show their appreciation for their parents’ support is to do some chores without being asked or nagged.
Do a load of laundry, sweep the back porch, offer to clean out the garage.
This kind of practical help is a good way for a teen in this situation to show that they understand what their parents are dealing with and they appreciate their efforts.
Be a Good Listener
It’s not just parents who support teens in recovery – friends, siblings, cousins, and others all may play an important role in a teen’s recovery.
And what many people in recovery often don’t see immediately is that addiction and recovery often have a way of eclipsing anything that’s going on in the lives of the people that support them.
During the period when a teen was in active addiction, friends might have struggled with conflicts with their own parents or relationship troubles. A younger sibling might be struggling with their grades, or an older sibling might be having trouble adjusting to college.
What a teen in recovery can do, once they’ve reached a place where they’re capable of doing it, is show an interest in the lives of the people that have supported them.
Let them talk about their struggles, and really listen. Let them talk about their triumphs, and celebrate with them.
One of the best ways for a teen to show their appreciation for someone who supported them is to show the same type of support in return.
Cook a Meal
Everybody has to eat. So even if a teen thinks there isn’t anything they can really do for the person who supported them – that person doesn’t need any chores done, has everything they want, has plenty of support when they need it, and so on – they’ll need to eat something eventually.
So why not make them dinner? Or breakfast, or lunch, or even just a snack?
Preparing food for someone is a thoughtful gesture that can say so much. It says:
- That you recognize that the person you’re cooking for has needs – namely food – and that you want to help meet those needs,
- You care about what they like, and
- That you want to save them time and trouble and that you’re willing to spend time and take on the trouble yourself.
And cooking is something that most teens can easily learn to do, even if they’ve never done it before. If you can read, you can follow a recipe, after all.
For a teen who’s determined to do something concrete to show their appreciation, cooking is a great gesture.
Write a Letter
It can be difficult for a teen – or for anyone, really – to express their appreciation sometimes, especially verbally. Sometimes you just can’t come up with the right words on the spot, or the words that you do say don’t sound right once you say them.
When that happens, writing a letter can be the best alternative. With a letter, you can really take your time and make sure that you say all the things that you want to say. You can:
- Read it over when you’re finished and decide if something needs to be added or revised,
- Write more than one draft if you need to, or
- Even wait for just the right time to send it (but don’t wait too long).
What’s more, a letter is something that the person who receives it can hold onto. Words of appreciation will undoubtedly mean a lot to the person who receives them, no matter what form they receive them in.
But a letter is something that they can go back and read again, maybe during times when they feel like they aren’t getting a lot of appreciation. It’s a lasting way to let someone know what kind of impact they’ve had on your life that they can then look back on later.
And while this applies to both physical letters and letters sent through email or text message, for most people, there’s a little something extra special about a letter they can hold in their hands, so teens should consider writing down their appreciation with ink and paper, not just digitally.
Teens in recovery should be able to count on support from their loved ones.
That’s what loved ones are there for – to support the people they care about when they need it.
Taking the time to express appreciation for that support acknowledges the important role those loved ones played in the teen’s journey.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.