Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope
As a parent, there is not anything in the world that you wouldn’t give for your child, to see them succeed, flourish, and live a healthy and fulfilling life. If your child is suffering from an addiction, you have likely been experiencing a myriad of emotions, including anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, and betrayal.
You may also be feeling guilt or shame, wondering what you did or did not do that may have contributed to your child’s drug or alcohol addiction.
First and foremost, it is absolutely important to understand that your child’s addiction is NOT your fault. Addictions are complex mental illnesses that are the result of many factors. Several things contribute to the development of addictions that are essentially out of your control, including your child’s genetic make-up and neurobiology.
Your child’s addiction likely resulted due to the combination of many interacting factors, and this is a crucial point to comprehend.
Self-blame will not resolve in productive treatment, nor will it empower you to become an integral part of your child’s recovery process from addiction. Even if you do not fully understand how your child got to the place where they are with their addiction, know that it is your love and support that will get them better, not self-blame or judgment.
Approaching Your Child
Once you can establish that you can be a helpful part of your child’s recovery, it will empower you to approach your loved one about their struggles. Addictions are isolating, manipulative, and secluding by nature, and you may feel as though you no longer know who your child is anymore.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, your child may not be physically or emotionally able to engage with or communicate with you, but your actions will still be helpful in connecting them to treatment.
Whether you are hoping to communicate your concern to your child, approach them about their behaviors, or discuss treatment options, there are important tactics you can take to increase the effectiveness of your discussion. Consider the following suggestions when attempting to communicate with your addicted child:
Understand What You are Hoping to Communicate:
It is easy to react to situations and to say the first things that come to mind. However, our initial reactions may not be the most productive in supporting our loved ones.
Before talking with your child, be sure to work through the emotions you are feeling and the thoughts you want to express. You can do this by journaling, talking with a counselor or therapist, or conversing with a family member. By processing what you are feeling and thinking first, your conversation with your child will be more productive and rational.
Set the Tone:
Many factors will contribute to the tone and manner in which you are approaching your child, such as the environment, your tone of voice, body language, and manners.
Be mindful of these factors and try to set a tone that is relaxed, warm, and inviting. Because of the touchy nature of addiction, your child will likely react defensively to things that you are communicating. By approaching them gently, gradually, and in an environment that they feel safe in, your conversation will be more readily received.
Communicate Boundaries and Consequences:
As a parent, it is crucial to establish healthy boundaries with your child as well as appropriate consequences, should these boundaries be crossed.
Additionally, you need to be prepared to follow through with consequences that you have communicated. While it may be difficult to enforce productive modes of discipline, this will help your child understand the severity of their actions.
In the case that addiction behaviors are extremely severe and destructive, it may be necessary to establish an intervention with an addiction specialist. Recruiting the assistance of a professional may also be effective in the case that you feel unable to reach your child.
If an intervention is necessary, be sure to collaborate with other family members who share your position and love for your child, such as a spouse or siblings.
While an addiction has likely caused many destructive consequences in the relationship between you and your child, remember that you can be an effective part of the solution. By communicating with your child in a manner that expresses love, concern, and firmness, you may help connect them to the treatment they need for recovery.
Be sure to find support for yourself through this process as well to help encourage you through this journey.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What has been your experience in positively interacting and communicating with your addicted child?
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 13th, 2014
Published on AddictionHope.com