Parenting After Recovery
Take this opportunity to heal with your children
As recovering addicts, we are acutely aware of our addiction’s impact on our families, especially our role as parents. Recovery offers parents a unique opportunity to change the addiction-related shame many of us carry into opportunities to heal and become better parents.
“…we could not manage our own lives. We could not live and enjoy life as other people do. We had to have something different and we thought we had found it in drugs. We placed their use ahead of the welfare of our families, our wives, husbands, and our children. We had to have drugs at all costs.” – NA Basic Text
Children of addicts and alcoholics face many challenges, especially those who are young or in their teens. They may have behavioral problems, emotional problems, difficulty trusting others, self-esteem issues, and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, children of addicts may be genetically predisposed to having their own substance abuse problems later in life. Parents in recovery must face the challenge of recovering from their addiction while helping raise their children who are happy, healthy, and have a drug-free future.
Top Six Tips for Parents in Recovery
Work on these to create a healthy family dynamic
1. Forgive Yourself So You Can Parent in Healthy Ways
Every addict feels some guilt and shame when first entering recovery, but parents are especially hard on themselves when it comes to forgiving themselves for their addiction. You need to be the healthiest version of yourself possible to raise your children. Luckily, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer us a path to forgiving others, making amends for our past behavior, and starting again. We must work the steps and regain our self-esteem, so we don’t parent out of guilt.
Overindulgence is a common coping mechanism parents in recovery use. To make up for their time in addiction, they may not set proper boundaries with their children or take on a friend’s role rather than the parent. Remember, all children need boundaries and discipline. Set age-appropriate guidelines for your children and hold them accountable for their behavior. Discipline will teach them to be responsible and prepare children for successful futures when done healthily.
2. Work on Rebuilding Trust
As parents in recovery, our children may have lost trust in us. We may have been absentee parents or not kept our word in active addiction. Rebuilding trust between you and your children may take time, work, and outside help.
When rebuilding trust, remain consistent. Keep your word, do what you say you’re going to do, and show up for your children – even if they are angry. It may be helpful for you and your children to go to individual or family counseling. A counselor can help you both work towards the common goal of having a strong bond again. Remember, millions of recovered parents have rebuilt healthy relationships with their children. As long as we stay sober, the work we put into rebuilding trust is an exercise of love that can last a lifetime. Be patient with yourself, your children, and the process. It’s worth it!
3. Practice Self-Care
Our kids need healthy parents. So, make time to go to meetings, talk with your sponsor, take prescribed medication, and meditate. When you prioritize your sobriety, you also prioritize your family.
Because so many parents in recovery experience guilt and shame, there can be a desire to be the perfect parent. Remember, we are working towards progress, not perfection. Our children know we are human and don’t expect us to be their Higher Power or an ideal. They need to know and love us for exactly who we are. Practicing self-care allows them to see us as healthy parents with strong coping skills.
4. Create Memories by Having Fun as a Family
One of the gifts of parenting in recovery is the chance to build wonderful new memories with our children. Cook and eat meals together, play games, go camping, go on vacation, play games, or binge-watch an age-appropriate show with your children.
Take the time to enjoy one another. Making new memories will help rebuild trust, strengthen bonds, increase affection, and make children feel safe.
5. Build a Strong Support System
You and your kids need to have a strong sense of community. Surround yourself with family and friends who can help you all feel part of something bigger than yourself. You can build a community of friends with children in recovery, become involved in a place of worship, or volunteer at their school. Choose the community you feel is most positive and beneficial for your family. You’ll never regret building a strong support system.
6. Including your child in recovery
Don’t avoid talking about your addiction or recovery. Be as honest as possible, and be sure to keep conversations age-appropriate. Communicate openly with your children about your addiction and be prepared to answer and educate. “By explaining it in a way they understand, they will know that this is not a bad person, but just someone who is doing something bad for them and they need help.” – WebMD
Recovery Tools Parents Can Provide Their Children
There are resources for children whose parents are in recovery
As parents in recovery, we have many tools at our disposal. We have the opportunity to get treatment, attend residential recovery programs, go to Twelve Step Programs, take medication, and go to counseling. All of these tools enable us to stay on the path of recovery – and that’s critical because our sobriety impacts the lives of our children.
Teens in recovery can benefit from Alateen, which is a Twelve Step Program for children of alcoholics. They may also need counseling. Families Anonymous is a similar program that children of addicts can benefit from.
The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) has many resources for kids and teens of recovering addicts.
It’s Time to Get Sober!
If you or someone you love needs help getting clean and sober, Breakthrough Recovery Outreach has programs available to help. Contact us today (770) 493-7750