While parenting can be fulfilling and rewarding, it’s no secret that parenting is a challenging, full-time job. If you have gone through addiction treatment, you probably have a unique perspective on parenting from different experiences in the past, such as healing from traumatic events, repairing family relationships, or understanding a family history of substance abuse. How do those experiences inform your role as a parent? What lessons can you take from addiction recovery to make you an even stronger person for your family? Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you grow as a parent in recovery.
Renewing your relationships
Perhaps your addiction created distance between you and your children. Depending on their ages, you probably recall times when you struggled to be the parent you wanted to be because of past or present substance abuse problems. Maybe you relapsed or experienced co-occurring anxiety or depression, impacting your attitude, presence, or involvement in your children’s activities.
Consider the ways you can repair and renew your relationships with your children. Acknowledge the impact your addiction has had on your family to validate their experiences. Ask open-ended questions to learn how your children are feeling. As you make apologies for past mistakes, make sure your actions reflect the sincerity of those apologies and your intent going forward.
Leading with honesty
Dr. David Sack, an addiction psychiatrist, talks about the value of honesty in parent-to-child relationships. As an innate characteristic, children have a keen sense of when adults are lying. From an early age, children can pick up on dishonesty, reflecting the need to be honest about the problem. While you might use different terms depending on your child’s age, best practice is to be honest about addiction and explain what it means as a disease. Just like other illnesses, the child’s mom or dad is sick and needs treatment to get better.
By setting a precedent of honesty, you keep secrets out of your household and create a family culture where people are truthful. While addiction is known to invite loneliness and fear, those feelings can be combatted by welcoming an ongoing dialogue. As a parent, you can build a relationship with your child in which the child is safe to ask any questions. As your child matures, they will have greater understanding for addiction, helping them approach their own lifestyle decisions with a more informed perspective.
Teaching about failure
While we recognize addiction as a disease, we also encourage addicts to take responsibility for past behavior, recognize the areas where we all need correction and accountability, and find the greater life lessons out of their substance abuse problems. These same principles easily apply to how you approach challenges and failure in raising a child. Psychology Today recommends teaching lessons about growth that include our failures, helping children become quick to recognize what they can learn from something bad. Just as substance abuse and recovery call out moments of failure, our mistakes as children and adults can be discussed through the lens of growth.
Taking care of yourself
As you grow as a parent and move forward in recovery, remember this thought: You cannot pour love and support into someone else if you are running on an empty tank. In order to give to your children, you must be mindful of your own needs. By taking care of your needs and filling up with positivity, you will be a stronger parent and model for your family.
How can you set up your child for healthy life choices? What can you do to educate them on addiction? What about their peers who are still experiencing substance abuse problems in their families? Learn more about helping children in families who are dealing with addiction.