Would you like some strategies for parents to help you cope?
Would some ideas on how to cope with your child’s drug use be helpful?
I remember trying to deal with my child’s substance use. It’s not easy.
It’s hard to watch the child you love more than life itself make choices that harm their health and well-being.
You might be feeling guilt, anger, frustration, and shame.
I see the toll addiction takes on family members and how it can feel overwhelming and hopeless.
And yet, I’ve worked with numerous parents and have seen many reasons for hope. When people commit to healing the underlying core issues that drive their drug use, they can alter their patterns and transform their lives. I’ve seen healing happen, and it is beautiful to witness.
In this post, I’ll share five strategies for parents to help manage their relationship with a young adult dealing with addiction. I’ll discuss what helps promote recovery and a healthy relationship between you and your child.
1. Listen to hear.
While it’s tempting for all of us to explain to our children why they should change, a better approach is to listen to understand what is going on for them. When you simply listen and take in what your child says, you hear the more profound things they are telling you, even if you disagree.
These things can be hard to hear if, while your child is talking, you are thinking about what you are going to say next.
Remember the old saying, “Kids should be seen and not heard”? One of parenting’s goals is to shape your child, yet now we know that it is equally important to give our children space so we can listen to them and develop the skills to truly hear them.
That way, you can take in what they have to say. It will have a profound and positive effect on your child and strengthen your relationship with them.
If you push too hard for change, your son or daughter will want to dig in and hold their position. We cannot force change. Our children need to be ready to change for themselves.
What if we took a week and simply listened to our child without sharing our perspectives at all? What would happen then?
That could be an act of love that your child will appreciate.
2. Let go of the past.
Many of us spend a great deal of time reliving things that went wrong in the past. We stress over what might have been or what we could have done differently.
Yet the past is not nearly as important as the present moment. Why? Because the past is over. What happened happened. It’s over. The essential question isn’t, “How can I change the past?” but rather, “What will I do going forward?”
One of the best choices you can make as a parent is to let go of your regrets from the past. Your child has most likely made some poor decisions during their addiction. But remember that your son or daughter’s drug use is just one aspect of who they are. It’s not their whole being.
Plus, trying to fix your child does not promote their recovery. All it does is keep them stuck with feelings of shame and guilt.
No amount of regret can change what happened in the past. People can spend years punishing themselves for poor choices they made, but all of those negative feelings don’t do a thing to alter the present moment.
Addressing the underlying core issues is what makes a difference. Once your child understands their emotional pain, that will empower them to make better choices in the future.
3. Work through your shame and guilt.
According to Dr. Adi Jaffe, “Shame is the feeling that there’s something wrong with you. It’s not about having done something wrong (that’s guilt). Shame arises from the core belief that you are simply not good enough. Sadly, it’s a core belief that is common among those who struggle with addiction issues.”
You may think that if you don’t try to make your son or daughter feel shame and guilt about their addiction, they won’t have the incentive to change. However, shame and guilt are not effective strategies for parents. All they do is bring people down and negatively impact them on every level.
A much better choice is to spend time with your child while staying as positive as possible. You don’t need to use shame and guilt to “correct” another person’s course. Instead, the natural consequences of their actions will have much more of an effect than your words ever could.
As Anne Lamott stated in her book, Some Assembly Required, “Life is the correction.”
4. Don’t blame yourself.
As a parent, you may be wondering whether your child’s addiction came about because of something you did (or neglected to do) in times past. I know I blamed myself for years because I felt our divorce caused my child’s addiction.
Yet, I’ve since learned not to dwell in self-blame.
While negative things can happen in childhood, trauma is different for each person. An event that barely affects one of your children may have been traumatic to another of your children.
Trauma means that the event was traumatic to you. We all have issues that are difficult for us. It doesn’t necessarily mean we didn’t have a good childhood. Things that happened to us that affected us negatively stay with us.
They need our attention, and this is the work we need to do.
There’s a strong link between past childhood trauma and substance use. At some point, your son or daughter turned to substances to ease the pain of his or her past.
Most parents do the best they can. It isn’t about what you did or didn’t do; instead, the substance is a solution for the pain that your child is feeling at the moment.
5. Self-care is an important strategy for parents.
It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when your child is in crisis. However, the best choice you can make to help your child is to take care of yourself first.
Exercise, eating healthy food, visiting with friends, and keeping up with your hobbies are all ways to practice self-care.
If you focus on your own needs, you can become a balanced, calm, loving presence in the lives of your family members. But if you neglect yourself, your frustration, resentment, and anger will bubble up to the surface. That doesn’t help anyone, least of all your child.
Your child can empower themselves to find a better path. Offer your love and support, but first, work on caring for yourself.
You will then serve as a role model, and you will then be in the best position to help your child.
In conclusion, we can help our children change, but the process takes time and effort on everyone’s part. The more you help yourself first, the better the chances are that your child will be willing to change.
Here are the five strategies for parents:
- Listen to hear.
- Let go of the past.
- Let go of shame and guilt.
- Don’t blame yourself.
- Practice self-care.
Finally, know there is hope for your child. There are millions in recovery. Your child can get there too.