How to Parent While in Recovery
Parenting is always challenging, even for parents who aren’t in recovery. Besides the normal challenges that all parents face, parents in recovery face trying to find a balance between remaining focused on recovery and being the best parents they can be at the same time.
Addiction impacts all members of the family including children. When you have been struggling with substance abuse disorder for a period of time, your children may have been exposed to mood swings, unpredictable behavior and possibly even abuse or neglect. During active addiction, even when you were present, you may have been emotionally unavailable and children may have experienced a lack of routine or structure.
Recovery involves learning to live a responsible and useful life without reliance on substances. It also involves learning to be a better parent and role model for your children.
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Make Amends to Your Children
Depending on the age of your child, it’s important to express regrets to your children for any unpredictable behavior caused by your active addiction. Don’t try to pretend nothing happened, because that will only add to their confusion or buried resentment.
If you went away for a while to a treatment center, your children may be confused or even resentful. Allow children to ask questions and feel their feelings. Let them know you realize you have fallen short in some ways in the past and that you’re trying to do a better job as a parent starting now.
Learning to Set Better Limits
Actively addicted parents rarely set any kind of limits with children. Getting sober doesn’t mean you’ll magically know how to do a better job, but you can begin to work toward practicing better parenting skills.
It’s not uncommon for feelings of guilt to lead to overindulgence or leniency, but setting rules and practicing positive discipline are part of being a parent. Now that you’re in recovery, it’s time to set limits for your children. This includes monitoring and supervising their activities as well as providing a stable environment that encourages healthy and responsible behavior.
Consider Professional Help
There’s little doubt that active addiction has hurt you and has also hurt your family. You may have wanted to believe you weren’t hurting anyone but yourself, but once you’re sober, it’s clear that that isn’t true. You may find that your children are angry and act out, especially when you attempt to set limits and practice discipline. Teenagers may be even harder to reach after the family has been impacted by addiction.
Mental health professionals can help parents in recovery to navigate this stressful time. This may include having your children or teens work with a counselor, or by having all members of the family participate in family therapy. Counselors trained in the way addiction affects family members can help children express turbulent emotions such as anger and fear in a safe space. They can also help you as a parent practice being more responsible in your parenting role.
Taking Care of Yourself
The best gift you can give to your children is a commitment to a sober lifestyle. In doing this, you’re not only protecting them from the unpredictability that goes along with active addiction, but you’re also setting a good example for them in using better coping skills as life challenges come up.
Continue to make recovery a top priority in your life while also setting time aside for your children. Be patient, because it may take time to rebuild damaged trust. Strive to live in the present moment and avoid being caught up in feelings of shame or guilt over things that happened in the past. Give yourself credit for doing the right thing today. It’s definitely possible to be a good parent while in recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with drub use or alcoholism, please call us at (866) 339-3544 or submit the form below to learn more about our addiction treatment programs in Los Angeles.