If you’re a parent, part of the process of building a sober life for yourself will involve improving your relationship with your child.
Addiction affects the entire family, but there’s always hope for healing if you’re committed to making changes to promote a healthier family dynamic.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Even parents who don’t have substance use disorders make mistakes, so there’s no need to continue to punish yourself for what’s happened in the past. What matters most is that you’re in recovery and committed to moving forward in a positive, healthy way.
Children learn by watching the adults around them. Seeing you bounce back from setbacks and work hard to reach your goals can provide your child with the inspiration he or she needs to be successful for many years to come. Strive for progress, not perfection.
2. Provide Consistency and Stability
Keeping set schedules and routines is a great way to stay on track in the early stages of recovery, since knowing how to fill your time will reduce the frequency of your cravings. This consistency and stability is also beneficial to building trust with your child, especially if you have been unreliable in the past due to your substance abuse. Small gestures such as being on time to pick a child up from school, promptly arriving at a sporting event, or fulfilling a promise for a weekend trip to the park have a big impact on children who are craving the attention of a caring and committed parent.
Many families find that a color-coded calendar makes it easy to see where everyone needs to be. Place the calendar in your kitchen or another easily accessible place and assign a different color to each family member. Go over the calendar with your child each morning, including discussing any scheduling changes in advance to alleviate feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.
Creating new family traditions can be a fun way to provide a sense of consistency and stability to your home. For example, you might celebrate “Taco Tuesdays” or plan a regular Friday night game night where you take turns picking a favorite board game to play. These types of small celebrations give you a chance to make lasting memories together.
3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Your child’s age and maturity level should dictate how much of your recovery journey you share with him or her. However, even very young children deserve an explanation for the changes they’re seeing in how your family operates. Keeping your child in the dark about your recovery can create a fear of the unknown. VeryWell Mind has some tips for approaching this subject that you might find helpful.
Open communication also means making time to listen to your child’s thoughts. Family dinners can provide a wonderful way to catch up on the events of the day. If your schedule doesn’t allow for shared meals, an evening game of catch or reading a story together before bed can offer the same benefits.
4. Avoid Overindulgence
It’s normal to feel guilty about the negative effects your drug or alcohol abuse have had on your child. However, overindulgence is not the right way to deal with the situation. What your child needs right now is your presence—not an endless stream of new toys, fancy electronics, or designer clothes.
Keep in mind that overindulgence doesn’t refer solely to material goods. Being too lenient with curfews or expectations for proper behavior at school can be just as problematic as showering your child with gifts. Bending the rules might temporarily create less conflict in your home, but it’s guaranteed to cause more problems in the long run.
5. Learn the Value of a Sincere Apology
No matter how committed you are, the recovery process is bound to involve some challenges. If you make a mistake, whether it’s forgetting to grab the supplies for a school project or raising your voice after a stressful day at work, apologize.
A sincere apology shows that you’re taking ownership of your actions. It’s healthy for children of all ages to see that everyone makes mistakes and that forgiving each other is part of what it means to be a family.
6. Know When to Ask for Help
Taking advantage of parenting classes and ongoing family counseling may help you feel more confident about this part of your recovery journey. It’s also smart to accept offers of help from members of your support network who care about you and your child, whether it’s assistance with childcare while you’re attending a recovery-related appointment or help with finding nutritious meals both you and your child will enjoy.
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we’re committed to providing men and women with substance use disorders the tools they need to build a happy and productive future free from the burden of addiction. Our care plans are personalized to fit individual needs and promote a holistic view of wellness that benefits the entire family.