What to Do if Your Child Is Struggling with Addiction
If your child is using drugs or alcohol, you may feel overwhelmed, angry, or in denial of the problem, or uncomfortable talking about it.
You may feel as if you have failed as a parent. You may feel unsure how to help your child or when is appropriate to seek help.
Nearly a fourth of young adults ages 18 to 20 have used an illegal substance. Substance abuse among teens is common and many parents feel ill-equipped to handle it.
If it feels like your child’s addiction is out of your control, that’s because it is, in part. Ultimately, you cannot control the choices your child makes. You cannot control the hold that a substance has on your child. Different parents need to hear different parenting advice for different children. For example, some parents need to learn to set firmer boundaries whereas other parents need to learn to give their child another chance.
But there are some things you can control—mainly your response and your actions.
4 Things You Can Do to Help Your Child
- Focus on Making Your Relationship with Your Child Strong
Even if your child isn’t demonstrating signs of addiction, make the relationship with your child a priority. Think through the amount of time you’re spending at work or at a hobby and consider if the way you’re spending your time aligns with your priorities.If your relationship with your child hasn’t been strong in the past, it’s not too late to work on reconnecting. Even if your child is struggling with full-blown addiction, all children need to know that they can go to their parent for support in finding a better, healthier life.
- Remember That Boundaries Are Loving
If you live next to a cliff, it’s not harsh to put a fence between your yard and the cliff so that no one gets hurt. In the same way, it’s not harsh to create rules that protect your family. Discipline can be a sign of love.However, being inconsistent with boundaries does more harm than good. For example, do not tell your child it’s okay to be out all hours of the night one week, and then yell at them the following week for not being home by nine.
Here are some tips to remember when deciding what boundaries to set for your child:
- Be clear where the lines are. Even if they seem obvious to you, make sure to spell them out.
- Make “cause and effect” rules. Once you have explicitly set the rules, explain the consequence of breaking the rules as well.
- Explain your reasoning. A child is more likely to trust you if they know that you are not arbitrarily making rules.
- If possible, make rules in collaboration with your child. They are more likely to follow the rules if they have thought through why the rules are there in the first place. Collaborating with them also communicates that you respect and trust your child to make thoughtful decisions.
Note: Setting boundaries with an adult child who is struggling with addiction is different from dealing with a child under 18. Legally, they are an adult and you are no longer their guardian. Also, after your children leave the house it isn’t applicable to put rules on them such as “You can’t use that stuff as long as you’re under my roof” or “I’m grounding you.”
For more information on parenting an adult child who struggles with addiction, check out this post on the Twin Lakes Recovery Center website.
- Practice Good Communication Skills with Your Child
If good communication is being practiced within the family, it will be easier to notice early signs of change in a child if they do start using substances. However, it’s never too late to start putting these rules of good communication into practice:
- Focus on the good things a child is doing, not the failures.
- Be respectful and accepting.
- Don’t appear distracted when your child is talking.
- Do not be irrationally dramatic.
- Reduce distractions that might communicate to your child that they are not important to you.
- Be understanding.
- Do not lean on sarcasm when communicating.
- Do not manipulate.
- Practice Self-Care
The saying, “you can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself” is true. Addiction affects the entire family, so you need to take steps to reduce stress in your life. Manage stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, or activities you enjoy. Follow the advice you give your children and choose healthy life options. Ask for help when you need it. Join a support group, preferably one that addresses similar issues you are experiencing with your child.Of course these suggestions are easier said than done, which is why Victory Addiction Recovery Center offers a Family Care Support Group. The aim of the group is to educate and provide a safe environment for families to share and learn about how to support their loved one in recovery. The group addresses issues such as codependency, boundaries, disease model of addiction, 12 steps, and self-care.
Victory knows that an individual is more likely to be successful in recovery if they have the love and support of their family. Victory also knows that there are specific difficulties and emotions that arise in families when a child struggles with addiction. The Family Care Support Group meets weekly with a qualified counselor. There is no cost to the families of past and current clients of Victory Addiction Recovery Center.
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