If you are a parent, guardian, caretaker or friend of a teen who is faced with a DUI charge, know that you are not powerless. There are many ways you can show support while still allowing the teen to experience some of the natural consequences of the dangerous behavior, and hopefully reduce the risk of repeated intoxicated driving.
If you have a teen facing a DUI, there are two major schools of parenting that might come into play.
The first approach: Allow your teen to experience all of the natural consequences of the negative behavior. This is the opposite of “enabling” – removing the negative consequences and potentially encouraging bad decision making.
The second approach: Take responsibility for your child’s actions and solve whatever parts of the problem you can. This type of support may be overbearing to the teen, but it prevents the real weight of the consequences from falling on his or her shoulders. This would mean paying fines and even dismissing any potential consequences at home.
The middle ground: Most parents and guardians will find themselves somewhere in the middle, eager to help but without shielding their teen from the harsh reality of the situation. There is a healthy balance to strike between these two models, and your teen’s age and personality will play into how you can best offer help. As you find that middle ground to walk with your teen through DUI recovery, here are four great ways to show your support.
1. Help your child to understand the legal implications of a DUI.
Even for adults, DUIs and the ensuing legal process can be overwhelming. As with any legal matter, the terminology can be boggling and court protocols can make someone feel completely out of place. Helping your teen to understand the legal implications of a DUI might be one of the best ways you can assist.
Researching the laws and charges in your state and sharing this information can help to clarify any misconceptions. Moreover, reading up on the court proceedings with your teen and even practicing statements aloud can offer a sense of preparedness and calm in a very nerve-wracking situation.
Your teen could benefit from a mini-refresher course regarding how the legal process plays out, and this offers a great segue into helping in other areas as well.
2. Make a plan for the expenses
Your child will encounter legal fees that aren’t easily covered by a minimum wage job. Costs associated with a DUI include legal fees, vehicle impounding, a license reinstatement fee, court fees and driver education programs.
Despite difficult circumstances, this could be a golden opportunity to encourage smart financial planning. Your teen will probably need to borrow money. This will differ for each family, but consider loaning out the money with an agreed upon plan for repayment if you are able. The costs of a DUI are meant to discourage the behavior, but once the deed is done the fees shouldn’t be debilitating and hinder his or her future plans.
3. Offer emotional support
It goes without saying that as a parent or support person, perhaps the best way you can show that you care is to listen and talk about the DUI. There is a huge emotional impact that comes with a DUI charge. Your teen probably feels guilty, especially if anyone involved was injured.
Although your teen may be open to talking, it’s also possible that your teen will prefer to have their own space to cope with a DUI. At this age, your teen is probably trying to establish a sense of independence. Although he or she might need support with other factors of a DUI, the emotional component might be a place for parents to back up and give some room for autonomy.
Regardless of whether or not your teen wants to talk through the feelings that come with a DUI, it’s important for you to share that you’re available to listen.
4. Encourage counseling
Another way to offer emotional support to your teen is to suggest counseling. Processing this difficult event may be easier for your teen with a third party rather than a close family member. As much as you may want to show your child love and listen well, it might be valuable to enlist a professional.
Facing a DUI charge is a major event in a young person’s life and it could be a trigger to some strong emotions, including feelings of depression. Although any teen could benefit from receiving counseling post-DUI, it is even more relevant for those who may present with mental health concerns. If you’re worried about your teen’s reaction to a DUI, reach out to a counselor to get started with services.
Regardless of your role in a teen’s life, there are plenty of ways to offer support. Learning about the legal process, offering financial guidance, listening and suggesting counseling are all major ways to help a teen through DUI recovery.
At Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling, you can expect to receive help for you and your family members through difficult life events. The counselors at Mazzitti & Sullivan are trained to guide you through a vast variety of different life experiences and can support you through individual or family counseling sessions. Reach out to Mazzitti & Sullivan counseling today, or call 1-800-809-2925 to get started.