A loving and supportive parent can be extremely helpful for a teenager or young adult in addiction recovery.
At the same time, you must understand that you can’t control your child’s addiction. In order to fully recover, your child will have to make the decision to be sober for himself or herself. Someone who does not genuinely want to get better won’t, no matter how involved you are or what steps you take.
So what can you do to help your child through addiction recovery?
Below, we’ll outline some tips for supporting your child on the path to health and sobriety.
First, it’s important not to be afraid of addressing your child’s alcohol or drug abuse. While these conversations may feel uncomfortable, they’re also vital.
This doesn’t mean you should confront your child aggressively. When a conversation about substance abuse feels confrontational, it’s common for the addict to get defensive, and the conversation is likely to go nowhere.
Instead, talk to your child (while your child is sober) about your concerns. Be nonjudgmental, use “I” statements, and urge your child to seek help.
Technically, children 17 or under can be checked into rehab without their consent. If your child’s life is on the line, this decision may be necessary. But for recovery to be effective and lasting, it’s best if you can get your child to agree to seek treatment.
Before you speak to your child about treatment, you’ll need to explore your options and make a plan. When you discuss treatment with your child, you should present a detailed plan for his or her recovery. Alternatively, you may wish to present 2-3 options to your child.
Once your child agrees to treatment, you’ll want to put your plan into action immediately. Sometimes, addicts agree to get help during an emotional conversation, and later change their minds. You’ll want to take your child to a treatment center while the interest in recovery is still fresh.
This means you’ll need to make calls ahead of time, look at payment options, etc. before you sit down and talk.
Get Involved in Aftercare
After your child has completed treatment, the treatment facility should develop an aftercare plan for next steps.
Depending on your child’s age, it’s helpful if you and your family can be involved in developing the plan. Be sure to express any concerns and ask for clarification if needed.
It’s likely that some sort of support group will be part of your child’s aftercare. Be supportive by attending meetings with your child as often as possible. Whether your child expresses it or not, your involvement and continued support does matter.
Your child may also need help finding sober friends, as it’s likely many of his or her previous friends are still using. Help your child find fun sober activities, and open your home for your child’s new friends to have movie or game nights that are free of drugs and alcohol.
If your family is invited to attend events where alcohol will be served, consider turning down these invitations, especially early in your child’s recovery. Be sure there is no alcohol or prescription medications in the house. If they are present, make sure they are locked away from your child.
Consider Family Therapy
Although your child is the one in recovery, it’s helpful for the entire family to attend therapy. This will be a difficult time for all of you, and therapy can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms and communication strategies.
You may also be able to address any underlying issues that may be related to your child’s struggle with substance abuse, as well as take steps to repair any damage that has been done to your family relationships.
It’s crucial to be clear about your rules and expectations. This could mean your child must attend school and not miss classes, maintain a job, follow a curfew and/or specified check-in times, etc. Of course, you will expect your child to be clean and sober.
You may wish to set up a recovery contract with your child. The contract should include goals and accomplishments that you and your child have agreed on. There may be rewards if these goals are achieved. You should also outline your rules and expectations, along with consequences that you’re willing to enforce.
If your child breaks rules or doesn’t meet expectations, you must follow through with the consequences you’ve established. Otherwise, your child won’t take these rules seriously.
As your child recovers from addiction, you should be involved and supportive. Get your child into treatment, help your child stick to the aftercare plan, consider attending therapy as a family, and demonstrate “tough love” by outlining boundaries and consequences—and sticking to them.
Remain positive and nonjudgmental, expressing to your child that you believe in his or her ability to recover.
And while it’s important for you to be involved, don’t forget to continue practicing self-care. This is a stressful time for you as well, and you can’t help your child if you don’t maintain your own health.