When people struggle with addiction, it does not only affect them–it affects everybody surrounding them, especially children. Children with a parent who struggles with addiction are at higher risk for chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. However, as a parent in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, you can work with your child to provide a safe, loving environment and offer outlets for healing.
Combatting Genetics With Valuable Parenting Skills
While experiencing addiction in a household can lead to substance use problems in children, so can genetics. However, just because a child has a parent who struggled with addiction does not mean they will face the same issues. Developing a healthy environment for your children can be even more influential than genetics. For this reason, it is crucial that parents in recovery learn to surround their children with a healthy, supportive, and positive atmosphere.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care goes a long way in recovery. When you take care of yourself, you create a model for your children to follow suit. You may feel guilt and shame for anything you may have exposed your children to in the past. However, it is important to not dwell on these feelings so that you can continue to set a good example for your children. Practicing self-care can include anything that involves taking care of yourself; this may consist of going to the gym, showering every day, meditating, and eating well.
Make Your Sobriety a Priority
The best gift you can give your children after having experienced your addiction is committing a sober lifestyle. By doing this, you are protecting them from the unpredictability of addiction and setting a good example of what using healthy coping mechanisms looks like. You can continue to make sobriety your priority while also setting aside time to spend with your children.
Encourage Expression of Feelings
When people recognize and confront their emotions, they allow themselves to accept the feelings and move past them. As a parent in recovery, you should encourage your children to express any feelings they have regarding your addiction. By expressing their feelings, they can learn how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way that will not lead to negative behaviors in the future.
Allow Time to Heal
Children who witness their parents struggling with addiction may struggle with negative emotions. While allowing your children to experience and confront these feelings is critical, so is allowing time for them to process these emotions. Remember, your healing is taking time; your children’s healing will take time, too.
Depending on the age of your children, it is crucial to express regrets for any behaviors caused by your addiction. Do not pretend that nothing happened because that will only add to their confusion or buried resentment. Allow children to ask questions and feel their feelings. Let them know you have fallen short in the past and that you are committing to being a better parent now.
Simply Be Present
One of the best things recovering parents can do for their children is to simply be there for them. While you cannot do anything to change the past, you can work towards being who you want to be for your children now. The time you spend with your children now that you are in recovery can help develop trust and stimulate healing. Encourage family time together by planning family outings like camping, hiking, or simply sitting around the dinner table and eating a meal together.
Consider Professional Help
Addiction has most likely hurt you and your family. You may find that your children are angry and act out, or are sad and withdrawn. Teenagers can be even harder to reach after the family has been impacted by addiction. However, mental health professionals can help parents in recovery navigate this stressful time. Working with a professional may mean your child or teenager works one-on-one with a counselor or the entire household participates in family therapy. Mental health professionals can help children express turbulent emotions such as anger and/or fear in a safe space. They can also help you practice being more responsible in your parental role.
The most important thing you can do as a parent in recovery is to be patient. It takes time to rebuild damaged trust. Strive to live in the present moment and avoid being caught up in feelings of shame or guilt over things that happened in the past. Give yourself credit for doing the right thing today.
Addiction not only affects the person struggling but the entire family system, especially children. As you enter into a new life in recovery, you can work on becoming a better parent for your children. By setting a positive example and committing yourself to sobriety, you can show your children how to cope healthily and take care of themselves. Become the safe space your children need to express their emotions and be patient when healing does not happen overnight. If your family continues to struggle, consider seeking professional help. Our recovery coaches at Hired Power can help connect you with appropriate resources based on your history and needs. They can also work with your family to identify what kind of boundaries you need and how you can best communicate with one another. When you choose Hired Power, you can help yourself and your loved ones implement clear recovery goals tailored to your unique situation. For more information on how Hired Power can help your family, call us today at 800.910.9299.