It can often seem as if children of addicts are an afterthought in the recovery process. In all of the hustle and chaos surrounding their parent entering into recovery, they can sometimes be lost in the shuffle. This is not to say that there is willful neglect, but striking a balance between getting the help that you need in order to achieve sobriety, while also taking into account the needs of your children can be a nearly impossible task. As a mother myself I am acutely aware of this balancing act and also am cognizant of the fact that me getting sober does not negate the things that occurred when I was using.
Just as my sobriety is a process of discovery and healing, it’s the same for my children. My children are still young and so I can sign them up for therapy and any other services that I deem necessary. With older children, this may be harder but is still feasible. I am not saying that therapy will mitigate the past or my addiction. It won’t what it will do is help bring healing to their lives. Children are resilient and with work on my part and the therapist I can begin the process of repairing the relationship I have with my children.
Being a parent can be difficult. There is no handbook of how to raise your child and what works for one child may not work for their sibling. Each child will receive love and nurtured in a unique way. The same goes for how to help your children heal after you have entered sobriety. All children of addicts will have reacted to their parent’s addiction in their own way and what they will need in order to move past any of the traumas that were caused will differ as well. So while this is by no means a comprehensive list of how a sober parent can help their child recover, below are some suggestions that I have found helpful in my own life.
Ways to Help Your children of addicts Now That You Are Sober
1. Make a proper amends
As simple as if this sounds it can be very difficult for newly sober parents to do. Questions may arise like, how much do I tell them and what is the proper way to go about doing this, and all of these are valid and important questions to ask. It is important to take into account the age of the child when making the amends and like any other amends you do not want to broach subjects that would make the other person unnecessarily uncomfortable. It is also important to understand that amends, especially when they are with your children, may take a long time to walk out. This means that while your children may initially accept the amends, they may not truly forgive you for some time. That is perfectly naturally and it is important for you to show them you’ve changed rather than just tell them. Give them their space and continue to work your program and everything will work out in the end.
2. Try to get them to see a therapist
This is something that I am currently doing with my children. This has been invaluable in my attempt to re-establish a healthy relationship with my children. It not only gives them a safe space in which they can process their emotions but since I am also working closely with the therapist it give us the ability to work out issues with an objective, trained third party. This makes our recovery process a partnership that we all are working on, which has helped in reestablishing our relationship.
3. Learn to set up healthy boundaries and enforce them
This is something that was severely lacking before I got sober, which is to be expected considering how emotionally my addiction was all-consuming. Now that I am sober I have begun setting healthy limits for my children, which allows them to feel safe and protected. As much as children may fight against boundaries, they thrive on them. They provide a sense of security as well. It’s also one of the ways that I have shown my children that I have truly changed is by letting them know what my limits are. Before I was so overwhelmed with life that I would just give in.
4. Give them the option of going to Al-Anon or Alateen
My children are a little young for this, which is why I chose to get them involved with a therapist, but there may come a point where they would like to explore these options and I would encourage it. The act of relating to another person is an extremely cathartic and healing experience and that is one of the main reasons why these programs are so helpful. It also can give your children the ability to talk to others who have been through what they are going through and have made it to the other side. In addition to this, these programs make use of the 12 Steps which will not only give your children the ability to find their own spiritual healing but will also give them a better understanding of what it is that you are doing at the meetings you go to. Also, when appropriate take your child to a meeting, obviously be selective where you go. I have taken my daughter to my home group where people are respectful. It was good for her to see that this is where I’m going and to see what we did at a meeting.
5. Continue to work on yourself
This is possibly the most important thing that a children of addicts parents can do. By maintaining your own sobriety and continuing to grow spiritually you can set a better example for your children and be there for them in times of need. You can parent from a place of strength rather than guilt and this will not only make you a better parent but will help your children achieve a stability they may have never know.
6. Model healthy emotional expression
Part of recovery is learning healthy manners in which to not only express but feel your emotions. This is a key aspect of living a healthy life. One of the most important parts of being a parent is the role that you play in modeling healthy behaviors for your children, this how they learn. In recovery this has been one of the greatest gifts that I can give my children is to learn how to talk about and express our emotions in a healthy way. In our house, we have a feelings chart. One that stays on the fridge and one for my phone, I have to admit that there are times where this chart helps me to discover what’s really going for me. When my kids are having an emotional outburst I will let them vent for a little and then we will sit down and together go through the feelings. Once they have identified one we will talk about it. It’s important to create a safe healthy place to express these feelings. This has been a bonding experience for me and my children as we both learn together what it looks like to express your emotions.
Getting sober is only the beginning and there may be an extensive period of reconstruction ahead. It is important not to forget your children during this period and help them in any way you can. This is not always an easy task as your addiction may have left them bitter and angry at you, but the more than you can involve them in your recovery process, and also get them involved in their own, the better off your family life will be.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.