Parents with a teen or young adult child in substance use recovery are sure to feel relieved and hopeful that their child is on the right path. Now, with the holidays in full swing, parents may wonder how to best manage the holiday festivities while keeping their child’s recovery needs in mind.
How can parents be supportive of their child in recovery?
Having a child in recovery presents both challenges and opportunities for parents. In recovery, the teen or young adult child will often struggle to find a balance between needing their parents and establishing independence from their parents. For this reason, parents should be aware of their own behaviors — those that are supportive and those that may hinder their child’s progress.
Support your child in recovery by engaging in the following actions:
- Set a good example: Children of all ages take their cues from parents, so parents that openly misuse substances only undermine their child’s recovery efforts. If you want your child to follow your lead, you should model healthy behaviors.
- Resist dispensing advice: As hard as it is, try not to bombard the child in recovery with a constant stream of unsolicited advice about how to live their life.
- Keep lines of communication open: Reassure your child that you are always available if they want to chat. When they come to you, resist judging them and just listen and offer your love and support.
- Encourage independence: Avoid enabling and codependent behaviors and empower the child to own their recovery and to make decisions accordingly.
- Encourage them without cheerleading: Parents may overcompensate by constantly praising their child in recovery. Instead, offer encouragement and assure them you believe in them without all the cheerleading and allow them to grow.
- Respect their boundaries: If your child has communicated the need for some boundaries, they are attempting to establish some healthy space, so respect and honor those boundaries.
5 tips for parents hosting holiday gatherings with a child in recovery
Parents who have a child in early recovery may be grappling with how to make plans for the upcoming holiday gatherings. While you naturally want the whole family to enjoy the holiday, you need to be considerate of your child who may be experiencing some added stress. Consider these five helpful tips:
- Manage expectations: Realize that your child is on a journey and that recovery is a process. The holidays will be different from the holidays of the past, so embrace the now and enjoy them for what they are at this point in time.
- Take alcohol off the menu: Replacing alcoholic beverages with festive mocktails, a coffee bar or hot chocolate can be an excellent way to eliminate a potential trigger for your child.
- Have an honest conversation: As the holidays get closer, find an opportunity to sit down and have a candid conversation with your child in recovery. Ask them if they have any needs or concerns regarding the upcoming family gathering.
- Pay attention to their mental health: For someone in early recovery, the holidays can stir up feelings of guilt, shame and remorse. In addition, seeing the whole family all at once may cause feelings of anxiety. Check in with them.
- Encourage contact with key supporters: If you begin to sense your child is struggling with the holiday stressors or triggers, suggest they add some additional meetings to their schedule and to reach out to other sober supporters.
While the holidays may feel a little different this year, it doesn’t detract from the family experiencing a deep sense of joy in the knowledge that their loved one is in recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.