Most parents are willing to go to any lengths to protect their children from danger, injury, or illness. If you’re the parent of a child who’s struggling with an addiction, you may find yourself wondering what you can do to help them. As your child is battling this insidious disease, you may feel helpless, sad, and wracked by guilt. Watching your child struggle with addiction can also leave a parent desperately searching for a resource or assistance that could help, consumed by uncertainty over where to even begin looking. Here is a list of tips that can help you help your child with their addiction.
How You Can Help
Facing an addiction of any kind impacts not just the person affected, but their entire family as well. It can make you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing exhausting emotional highs and lows day after day. You may spend your days and nights riddled with worry, guilt, anger, and other negative emotions. It’s not uncommon for the parents of people with addictions to blame themselves or feel intense shame. As a parent, it is vital to develop healthy boundaries and coping mechanisms to preserve your own well-being. Although these boundaries may be hard to set and maintain, preserving your own mental fortitude can allow you to better help your child in the long run.
Maintain Open Communication
Addiction sometimes comes with maladaptive behaviors that can include manipulation and deceit. These behaviors can put a serious strain on your relationship with your child. A powerful way to combat these pitfalls is to establish open and assertive communication. Open communication can help create a safe place for your child to come to even when they may disappoint or upset you. If your child starts to show signs of addiction, do your best to ask open-ended questions, and stay away from judgmental language. Providing your child with a safe and judgment-free space can allow them to express their concerns, struggles, fears, and goals.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also suggests parents try:
- Displaying a sense of acceptance and understanding
- Remaining engaged and focused
- Being kind and respectful
- Eliminating distractions
- Focusing on and validating the good
- Reducing negative and overly emotional reactions
Create and Reinforce Guidelines
Guidelines are a set of consistent rules. Try to set clear expectations of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Do this by creating a list of cause and effect statements, in the format “if (behavior) happens, then (action) takes place.” These do not need to be negative outcomes; avoid using threatening language such as “if you relapse, we are never helping you again.”
Remember, creating a space that only ends with a negative consequence is not creating a space that feels welcoming for the times that your child does mess up. Addiction and recovery come with a lot of ups and downs, and relapse may be a part of your child’s recovery path. Do your best to provide encouragement and help instead of adding to the negative feelings.
Encourage Positive Behaviors
Although it isn’t going to be easy to forget the mistakes or poor choices your child may make because of their addiction, do your best to acknowledge and praise all the positives. When we positively reinforce our child, we build a sense of teamwork while reducing conflict. Praising them can also encourage them to:
- Engage in healthy activities
- Persevere through challenges
- Create a space that is open and safe
- Utilize positive coping skills
- Build their self-confidence
Set Clear Boundaries
After you set your guidelines, it’s important to set non-negotiable boundaries, such as what you will and will not do for your child. Addiction can cause a person to test boundaries, making it crucial to be consistent and firm. Here are a few questions to consider when establishing your boundaries:
- How do you expect to be treated by your child?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for your child?
- Are you willing to sacrifice your morals for your child?
- Will you enable your child during their addiction?
- What level of substance abuse are you willing to accept?
- Can you accept when they relapse?
This is going to be a battle, one that you may not think that you are capable of handling your role in it. You must practice self-care when helping your child with their addiction. Focus on yourself, take time for yourself, and make yourself a priority. The amount of stress and heartbreak you are going to endure can cause burnout, leaving you in a space that isn’t beneficial for anyone.
As a parent, you’ll go to great lengths to keep your child safe and healthy, through sickness and pain alike. Addiction is a dangerous disease that must be treated just as seriously as any chronic illness. The journey of addiction and recovery can be demanding and exhausting for your child and their entire family. Maintaining expectations, setting firm boundaries, and having open communication can all help you and your family as you work to overcome the disease of addiction. Professional treatment is highly recommended for your child and the entire family unit. At Achieve Concierge, we’re ready to work with you on a personalized level to provide the answers and resources your family needs. Participating in a family program can help with feelings of anger and stress while also providing realistic expectations for recovery. If you are looking to help your child or yourself with addiction, reach out to Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871.