It is critical for parents who are new in recovery and who have established their commitment to a new lifestyle free of substances to understand the vital factors they face as parents and for their children. Maintaining good relationships with children who eventually become teenagers can be especially tough for both children and their parents in recovery. Parents in recovery are also responsible for raising children who may be at risk of developing an addiction later. The tendencies of newly recovering parents can vary, but the following behaviors seem to be typical.
According to one National Survey on Drug Use, an estimated 7.5 million children, or 10.5% of the population 17 years of age and younger, live with at least one parent who abuses drugs or alcohol. (NIH)
Spoiling Children to Alleviate Guilt of Addiction
Overindulging children by newly recovering parents is expected. Most parents feel ashamed of how they treated their kids when using or drinking. They may also be afraid that they have caused irreversible damage to the child and will try to offset the negative reality of the past with excessive gifts and granting all their wishes. This is a classic coping mechanism for guilt. Whether in recovery or not, all parents should be encouraged to set limits, monitor, supervise their children’s activities, and provide a consistent and loving-centered environment that represents their new way of life and current respect for their recovery and behavior.
Lack Of Discipline With Addicted Parents
Parents in recovery are facing how to embrace life on life’s terms. Most addicts and alcoholics were not following rules or living stable lives at the end of their addictions. Once they get clean and sober, some parents might have a hard time disciplining their kids or becoming too strict. All parents find it challenging to be warm and likable while still holding a child accountable for their behavior in general. In the long run, parents have to realize that age-appropriate rules and positive discipline will most likely lead to better outcomes for their children.
Prioritizing Recovery for Parents
Despite the importance of being a stable and loving parent, the most critical aspect is the parent’s recovery. If the parent is not actively involved in their recovery program, relapse is likely, and their role as a parent could be taken away. Here is the image of the parent putting the oxygen mask on before they help their child applies. If the parent is not healthy, the child won’t be either. Making arrangements for alternative activities for children when a parent attends recovery meetings or counseling is essential. Drawing on help and support from trusted neighbors, and extended family members, and attending recovery groups that provide childcare is always ideal.
Treating an addiction without addressing parenting leaves parents with insufficient skills for handling child behavior issues and makes them more vulnerable to drug relapse as a coping mechanism. (NIH)
Making Living Amends to Children
Parental absence because of drugs and alcohol leaves lifelong scars on children. Making living amends to children who are too young to comprehend addiction can help the parent be even more proactive in their recovery. A ‘Living Amends’ is when a person, parent or not, who is in recovery abstains from drugs and alcohol without telling the individual about it but pledges to remain sober on their behalf. Also, open communication is always the best way for older children to help heal their pain from their parent’s drug use and get them involved by sharing how their recovery is going.
The Issue of Trust for Recovering Parents
Rebuilding trust is going to be complicated. The process can take patience and hard work for both parent and child. The child needs reassurance that the parent can be trusted regarding their ability to be there for them. The parent can make an extra effort to be on time to pick up a child from a friend’s house, or attending many if not all school or sports events can make a difference. Being present with other family members who are supportive of the parents’ recovery is also helpful.
Coping With Stigma for Sober Parents
Recovering parents should expect to deal with the challenge of stigma and presumptions about addiction and alcoholism. Other families who have the recovering parent’s children over may be leery of how to treat the family in general. Here is another setting for open and honest communication from the recovering parents to others. Recovering moms and dads can focus on the positive aspects of their recovery and offer insight into why they quit. Most people support others who have decided they cannot drink or do drugs. It is also not uncommon for other children’s parents to be judgmental. The children of recovering parents will face adversity but not nearly as damaging as when their parents were on drugs and alcohol.
What Do Professionals Say About Parenting in Recovery?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances in science and health research on the effects of drug abuse on children. They state the problem and the solution as interventions to help both parent and child.
Findings from the literature suggest that children of substance-abusing parents have a high risk of developing physical and mental health and behavioral problems. Several intervention programs have been developed for parents who have substance abuse problems. There have also been many interventions that have been developed for children who have at least one parent with a substance abuse problem. The interventions were designed to not only reduce drug and alcohol use but also to improve overall family functioning by addressing and overcoming problems in the relationship of the parents as well as providing parenting skills training. (NCBI)