Parents in recovery face challenges that adults in recovery without children do not face. Staying on the bandwagon in your personal life, while also being a good parent are both worthy pursuits. However, when these goals are combined it may feel like an uphill battle.
Rebuilding after addiction will take effort and commitment. But it is possible with awareness of the issues that are common to parents who have kicked an addiction.
Here are parenting issues to watch for:
Spoiling and over indulgence.
You may feel guilty about past behavior or parental neglect. To cope with such feelings, you may be tempted to give in to all demands and requests your children make. Dessert for dinner. Lenience for homework left undone. The cases can and will snowball when children find that you are easy prey for outrageous requests.
Regardless of your past behavior, children do better when they know there are limits they cannot cross. Do not let guilt over actions in the past influence the need for providing children with rules and guidelines.
Overcoming your absence.
As a parent in recovery, you may have spent a fair amount of time away from your children. Along with the time when you were not emotionally not available for your children. This parental absence can leave a mark on both your own psyche and on the emotional development of your children.
Rebuilding your relationship with your child will take time. You may battle guilt over being an absent parent, and your children may bring it up during disagreements to get their way. Or so that they can gain power in certain situations. You both may benefit from seeing a family therapist to talk through your issues. Show that you are committed to overcoming your past absences by keeping your promises today and by being patient.
Dealing with broken trust.
After dealing with your absences and other behaviors that a substance abuser exhibits, your child may find it difficult to open up to you. This, too, will take time and commitment to repair broken trust. Here are some tips that can help you start talking again with your child.
- Be aware of times when your child is more open to conversation.
- Avoid times when your child is not ready to talk.
- Avoid questions that will make your child feel judged or criticized. For example, questions that start with “why” can put your child on the defensive.
- Focus on asking questions that start with “What do you think about …” Open-ended questions can help a child feel less put on the spot.
- Look for common ground. For example, foods you both like, hobbies you share, TV shows you both enjoy, etc.
People in recovery will face the stigma associated with addictions. No matter how hard you try to keep it under wraps, your child’s friends and their parents may find out about your past. This can create awkwardness for your child and for you during social events. Your history may cause your child to feel ashamed and can lead to flare ups with schoolmates or school personnel.
Deal with the stigma by preparing your child for that time when she or he will need to respond to others’ inquiries. Explain that addiction is an illness and that you are now in recovery from your illness. Help your child understand that who you were in the past is not who you are today.
Addiction is a disease, and the more you educate yourself and your family about addiction, the better you and they will be able to handle it.
Not feeling good enough.
Most parents feel a measure of insecurity about their parenting style and whether they are doing a good job. Parents in recovery feel this in double measure. Working through feelings of shame and guilt over past behavior may influence your present emotional state.
Get help from a trusted source to give you honest feedback on how you are doing. Find a safe person, such as your therapist, a stable family member, or someone you respect and trust, to tell you when you could actually be doing better. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes and commit to moving on.
Returning back to family life and becoming the parent you want to be for your kids may feel like a tall order. Knowing your weak areas will allow you to self-evaluate and pinpoint when you are falling into a negative pattern.