How to Help Your Child Who is Struggling with Addiction
From a child’s very first breath, parents would do anything to ensure their safety and health. Realizing that your child is suffering from addiction can present you with pain, heartbreak, and a whirlwind of other emotions. You may feel angry with them, scared for what the future will bring, or guilty for not realizing they were suffering sooner.
Addiction is surrounded by a stigma that may influence the actions you take to try to help your child. Certain methods you may use to help could push them away, while others may be just what they need. Regardless of these possibilities, you still feel a pull on your heart to do everything in your power to help them through their battle.
Recovery from addiction may be a tough battle, but it is entirely possible. With the help of proper health professionals and your unconditional love and support, your child can find themselves on
The more you know about how addiction works, the better equipped you will be to support your child on their path to recovery. Educate yourself on biases and stigmas you may have around addiction, methods of communication that will help your child feel comfortable enough to open up to you, what the path to recovery may look like, and what exactly addiction looks like.
Addiction is a disease. It is not a choice and does not make a person inherently good or bad. The disease occurs within the brain’s chemistry, with the substance use often releasing dopamine throughout the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is intended to act as a reward to the brain when we do something pleasurable. Dopamine will leave one feeling good and persuade them to continue to do that action to release more dopamine.
Substance use does not automatically lead to addiction. Those who develop an addiction typically display certain risk factors within their genetics, behavioral health, environment, and personal experiences.
Developing strong, safe, and nonjudgmental communication can help parents catch a child’s addiction early. Creating this bond with your child is very helpful in remaining aware of how their lives are going.
When you decide to confront your child about your suspicions of their addiction, make sure that the two of you can be completely present with each other. Trying to communicate while you are distracted with another sibling, they are rushing to get ready for school, or as the television blares in the background, will present distractions and make it harder for your child to open up to you. Develop a game plan about how you will approach the subject. Most importantly, try your best to remain calm, patient, and supportive.
Avoid acting accusatory or placing blame on your child. Instead, let them know that you love them and are just concerned. If you find yourself getting upset and do not believe that you can provide your child with the support they need at the moment, it is okay to take a break and return to the subject later.
Once you can get your child to open up a bit, work with them to develop a game plan. Throughout this planning, work to remain as patient and supportive as you can to create a comforting environment for your child.
Develop and Enforce Boundaries and Expectations
Set clear and consistent expectations and boundaries for your child that provide them with guidelines of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. As you are setting these guidelines, provide your child with clear expectations for consequences of their actions and remain consistent in these consequences. Doing so allows your child to better understand the boundaries you have set in place, granting them the chance to associate positive consequences with positive behaviors and negative consequences with negative behaviors. Of course, these boundaries will vary in different relationships.
Boundaries and expectations can be set for yourself, as well. If you are dealing with an older child, whether they be a teenager or your adult child, trying to help them through their addiction can be made more difficult through their resistance. Try your hardest not to be entirely engulfed in attempting to make your older child obey you. Often, the harder you push your older child to obey you, the less likely they will be to listen. Let your child know that you support and love them. Tell them you are always there to listen if they need to talk. Sometimes, this is all your child needs to seek your help- a gentle and loving approach.
Focus on the Positive
It can be frustrating and heartbreaking to see the ones we love suffering from addiction. You may be tempted to confront them about all of their mistakes, blame yourself for their addiction, or to get angry when they are not ready to open up to you. Work to avoid focusing on mistakes or bad decisions your child is making. Focusing on these aspects during your child’s path to recovery will likely lead to them developing a negative attitude toward their recovery, leading to a loss of motivation.
Instead of focusing on the negative, search for the positives! Make little comments about how hard your child is working on their path to recovery. Let them know that you see them doing the seemingly small things right.
Take Care of Yourself
The saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is such a perfect term for his situation. Yes, you just want to make sure that your child gets on the path to recovery from their addiction. This path will be filled with a lot of stress and obstacles, though- for the whole family. When you do not take proper care of yourself, feelings of resentment, tension, and impatience will begin to arise. You may find yourself becoming more short-tempered, unable to approach your child gently, or completely burnt out. Self-care is essential to keeping you feeling fresh and ready to take on whatever battles you may be helping your child work through today.
Getting Help for Your Child
Seeing your child suffer from addiction can be heartbreaking. In this struggle, they will need your love and support. There are many treatment options available for your child, from rehab to therapy, and everything in between. Contact us today to see which option is best for your child.