For parents, knowing that your child is fighting with addiction can cause a variety of negative emotions. It is also difficult knowing just how you can help. The symptoms can often make the problem even more difficult to address. Secrecy and theft can make it very challenging to keep aware of the issue, and both blame and guilt are common responses. There are ways to handle the situation, and there is help available. Nobody wants their children to have a hard time in any area of their life, but if your child is battling addiction then you need to know what to do about it. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to cope as a family.
Step One: Keep your relationship strong
One of the biggest challenges facing the parents of addicted children is that the behaviour can be difficult to spot. Secrecy is common, and when combined with deceitful behaviour it can be too easy to distance ourselves from each other. It’s vital that you don’t let that happen. Open and clear communication is the key. If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, then ask questions. Be clear about why you are asking, and actively listen to the responses. It’s important that you:
- Be accepting and understanding
- Be engaged
- Be kind
- Be respectful
- Focus on positives
Never allow your emotions to take control of the conversation. Anger can lead to irrational exchanges. If you start to feel your emotions take over, leave the conversation but return to it when you have your feelings under control. Never ignore the problem.
Step Two: Looking after yourself
As a parent, it is very likely that you will focus entirely on your child. This is even more likely if you know that they are suffering in some way, and it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. The longer that you have to deal with problems with addiction in the family, the more this strategy will be likely to have negative effects on your own health. Shame, blame, and guilt will be a very real factor to have to deal with, and if you do not tackle those feelings in a positive and timely way, then your child’s addiction problems are going to take their toll on you. Self-care is vital for everyone, but as the parent of an addict, you are going to need to take extra steps to protect your mental health, your physical health, and your family. Start by:
- Eating healthily
- Staying hydrated
- Exercise, no matter how briefly
- Establish a set sleeping pattern
You should also consider your emotional and mental health as well. Look at:
- Speaking to a professional about your emotional worries
- Addressing any addictions that you may suffer from
- Taking a therapeutic exercise class like yoga or tai chi
- Finding a local support group for the parents of addicts
Forgetting about personal well-being is very easy for parents who are worried about their children. This can have a very negative impact on you and other members of your family. Remember that other people in your household will also need to be looked after. Make sure that you:
- Make time for your partner
- Engage with your other children
- Spend time with friends
- Visit other family members
Making sure that you look after yourself will keep your strength and motivation going. There’s also the fact that by showing that a healthy lifestyle is perfectly possible, you might make it easier for other members of your family to follow suit.
Step Three: Deciding on Treatment
Addiction is not an easy thing to get over. As a parent, you will want the entire issue to be resolved as quickly as possible, but that is very rarely an option. If you have gone over the variety of options with a medical professional or addiction counsellor then it may be time that you consider rehabilitation centres. These are not just for the rich and famous. Many people are unaware that they can book into a recovery centre. There will be a combination of therapy and medication available to ease the transition back to non-drug use. Suboxone has become increasingly popular as a medication option for addicts. Check that you have health insurance that covers suboxone and you could be able to book your child into rehab sooner rather than later.
Step Four: Learning how to interact
There is a good chance that during and after any period of addiction that you will need to relearn how to interact with your child. The experience will have changed you both and there is usually a change in the dynamic. Make sure that your interactions are positive but healthy. You can do this by:
- Establishing healthy boundaries that are comfortable for you both.
- Monitoring their behaviour – this is a proven way of minimising the risk of repeating drug use. Make sure that you know where your child is and what they are doing. Remember to respect the boundaries that you have already established.
- Address your communication with each other – one of the biggest problems for parents of addicted children is that trust between you has been lost. It’s important that you regain that as much as possible. Communication is going to be the key. Spend more time with them and be open and honest about your thoughts. Do this in a safe and calm environment.
Long-term recovery is achievable. Drug addiction can damage relationships and lives, and it’s essential that you tackle the issues as quickly as possible. The more proactive that you are in addressing the problems of addiction, the sooner you will be able to help your child into recovery. Make sure that you have a support network of your own and remember not to neglect your other relationships. It can be difficult to be there for everyone when your child is going through such a dangerous time, but having support will end up benefiting you all. Never go through addiction issues alone, and always look for professional help.