3 Common Questions When a Teen Comes Home from Treatment

When a teen comes home from treatment there are unique challenges the family will face. Many parents have concerns difficult to understand without firsthand experience. During the Adolescent Family Program at Cumberland Heights families are offered the opportunity to speak with parents of our adolescent alumni to gain knowledge from their experience. For many years Joe Caudle, Carlton McGrew and Phil Walsh have voluntarily led the discussion for these families.

Joe, Carlton and Phil shared their answers to the three most common questions asked by parents when their children return home from treatment.

  1. What do we do when they come home?
  2. Lurking behind the excitement of your child returning home from treatment are often feelings of fear and anxiety. The unpleasant memories of the weeks or years leading to treatment may still be fresh in your mind, and you’re eager not to repeat those mistakes.

    First, realize while your child is at treatment they’re being taught how to manage their disease. They’re also acclimating to a structured, supportive environment with new boundaries and rules essential to successful recovery. Understanding and obeying these rules provide a comfortable environment for your children to focus on recovery.

    While your child is in treatment you should inquire with your family counselor about the benefits of developing an exit contract. An exit contract can be developed to be an extension of the structure they’re comfortable with in treatment and eliminate gray areas when dealing with rules and consequences.

    Secondly, you may want to evaluate your communication process. As parents, reestablishing communication may be challenging. Very often we spend little time listening to our children because we have been busy telling our children how to live.

    When your child sees you making changes it will provide an environment for positive communication. When parents begin to change their behavior, they become a model to the child influencing them to make positive changes.

  3. When my child comes home from treatment, how do I keep him from running with old friends?
  4. Simple, you don’t, and you can’t. Once your child has spent time in treatment he knows who he should and shouldn’t hang out with. Keep in mind if your child wants to run with old friends, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will use again. Controlling who your child is around only begins the battle all over again. Your child will need to make the best choice for him; you can’t make it for him. Let your child experience the negative and positive consequences of his choices. The only exception is in your home. You have the right to allow or not to allow your child’s friends in your home.

  5. When will I trust my child again?
  6. Does your child really know what trust looks like? Does your child trust you? Do you model trust to them?

    Trust and Respect go hand in hand. We all want trust and respect to return in our home after the disease of addiction has poisoned our family. Trust must start with the parent becoming trustworthy.

    Our children have listened to us make demands and threats without meaning for so long, they no longer trust us.

Some steps we suggest to improve communication are:

  • Ask your child’s opinion and really listen to the response.
  • Include your child in your conversations, especially when the child is directly affected.
  • Constantly let your child know how you feel about things.

For example, a parent may say, “If you can’t follow your curfew then you’re grounded for a month.” Only after two weeks of good behavior the parent decides to end the curfew early. If you say one month it should mean one month. Once your child starts seeing a consistent pattern of truthfulness from you he will begin trusting you. The child must learn to trust the parent before the parent can trust the child.

Re-establishing trust is followed by gaining respect. Again, the parent must model respect to the child. Show your child respect first by pointing out positive things about them, not always harping on the negatives. In time balance will return to your home.


Cumberland Heights developed one of the first family programs in the southeastern United States in the 1970s. We believe in whole family healing.

Over the years, we’ve helped thousands of families find their way back to each other. To make our family program accessible we offer a number of options to fit the different needs and schedules of our families. These include individual family sessions with family counselors who are a part of each program and service we offer, family education groups held in the evening at our residential and intensive outpatient sites, family education groups offered during residential visitation and a family workshop lasting Sunday to Wednesday at our residential campus on River Road.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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