People in recovery are often determined to heal the wounds caused by their former substance use disorder (SUD). Recovering parents especially want to repair damaged relationships with their children. Parents in recovery seek to make things right with their kids, and to show them the love and attention they deserve.
While suffering with an SUD, parents may not have been fully aware of how the substance use affected their children. Once they obtain sobriety and are actively in recovery, they may be overwhelmed with feelings of shame or guilt when considering how their former lifestyle impacted the kids. Although these emotions are common among parents in recovery, time provides them the opportunity to eventually replace the negative feelings with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.
Family Recovery Journeys
As is often stated, addiction is a disease that impacts the whole family. When the parent suffering from a SUD decides to get treatment, it is relieving, and sometimes joyous. The entire family benefits from this decision, especially the children.
Having a parent with a SUD is a risk factor for the child to begin using substances themselves later in life. An SUD’s impact on children is quite significant. Kids suffer from the lack of structure, even chaos that results from a parent’s SUD. The children often struggle with discipline issues in school, mental health challenges, and sometimes even neglect or abuse. These kids may feel obliged to take up the slack, handling responsibilities that should belong to the parent.
Once a parent enters recovery, efforts must be made to repair the damage. Here are six tips to help parents in recovery re-establish a healthy bond with their children:
- Own it. The parent must humbly apologize to their children for the effect their SUD had on their lives. There is no need to reveal every detail of the SUD, but it is helpful to admit that they were captive to a disease that literally took over their ability to make sound decisions. Children want to forgive their parent, so an apology early in recovery will begin the healing process.
- Keep your word. In recovery, words are meaningless without actions to back them up. Parents in recovery must keep their promises and prove to their children that they are reliable. Exercise patience, as it takes time for the child to feel they can trust the parent to truly follow through as promised.
- Be there for them. Carving out the quality time to spend with your children will have a significant and positive impact on them. By prioritizing the kids, you demonstrate that you have changed, that you are engaged and interested in their activities, their school experience, their friends, and their passions.
- Be patient. If a parent’s SUD lasted a long time, it will take time to work through the feelings of resentment, anger, and abandonment that the child may harbor. Don’t give up. Even if your child expresses hostile emotions and resistance, by staying the course and demonstrating your commitment to recovery they will eventually begin to trust you again.
- Take care of yourself. In order to benefit the children, a parent in recovery will take care of their own health and wellness. Establish a new healthy routine that includes keeping a consistent daily schedule, getting regular exercise, preparing healthy meals, and getting adequate sleep. Not only will the parent’s health improve, but they will also be setting good examples for their kids.
- Consider family counseling. Sometimes the fallout from the SUD may be difficult to work through without professional guidance. Parents in recovery benefit from family therapy, as it provides a safe setting for children to convey their concerns and feelings, allowing a therapist to guide the family toward healing.
Fortunately, children are surprisingly resilient and forgiving. Parents in recovery will be faced with some challenges as they work to rebuild their relationships with their children. But with some perseverance and plenty of recovery support, the bonds between parent and child can become rock solid once again.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.