Once you’ve completed residential treatment, it’s time to focus on strengthening your relationship with your child. Parenting while in recovery is challenging, but many of the skills you learned during your time at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia will help you promote a more positive family dynamic.
Parenting, even when you’re not in recovery, can be overwhelming. In addition to providing for your child’s basic needs, you’re worried about them meeting developmental milestones, making friends, succeeding in school, and building the skills to become an independent adult.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself to focus on one day at a time. If you’re constantly worrying about what the future holds, you’re preventing yourself from focusing on the present. Celebrate the fact that your child is currently safe and healthy. Deal with challenges as they arise.
Journaling is often recommended as holistic support for addiction recovery, but it’s also a great way to gain a more balanced perspective on the ups and downs of parenting. Over time, your journal will serve as a reminder of how far your family has come together.
Addiction stigma affects everyone, even young children. While your child doesn’t need to know every detail of your recovery, you should take the time to explain your situation in an age-appropriate manner. Ignoring the issue can lead to your child to think addiction is shameful or that they have caused your substance abuse.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics uses the 7 Cs of addiction as a framework for helping children understand a parent’s substance abuse and how it affects their own lives.
I didn’t CAUSE it.
I can’t CURE it.
I can’t CONTROL it.
I can CARE for myself
By COMMUNICATING my feelings,
Making healthy CHOICES, and
By CELEBRATING myself.
Open communication also means encouraging your child to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Family meals can provide a crucial opportunity to promote open communication, as can talking walks together or enjoying a game of catch. The University of Missouri Extension offers an age-based guide to positive communication.
Be a Role Model, Not a Friend
If you’re feeling guilty about how your past substance abuse has hurt your child, it can be tempting to try to get on your child’s good side by showering them with gifts or being the most lenient parent in their social circle. You must resist this urge. Your child needs a role model, not a friend. Overindulgence will make things easier in the short term, but it’s a strategy that’s bound to backfire eventually.
Children thrive on consistency and stability. Create a routine for your family that focuses on spending quality time together. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, but what your child needs most is your presence.
Live a Wellness-Focused Lifestyle
No matter how busy you feel, it’s vital that you make time for exercise, good nutrition, stress-relieving hobbies, and sufficient sleep. If you don’t care for your own needs, you won’t be in any position to be the parent your child deserves.
Instead of thinking of self-care as something that’s part of your recovery journey, focus on maintaining these habits as part of a wellness-focused lifestyle. Encourage your children to make the same healthy choices, stressing that caring for your mind, body, and spirit helps you make the most of the opportunities that are presented each day.
Take Ownership of Your Mistakes
Making mistakes is part of being human. If you lose your temper when your child brings home a bad grade or forget to pick them up from soccer practice, this doesn’t make you a bad parent. However, you do need to apologize to your child when you’re clearly in the wrong.
A sincere apology shows that you’re committed to being held accountable for your actions. It reminds your child that you care about their feelings and that forgiving others is part of what it means to be a family. Psychology Today has some insight into how to apologize effectively.
Ask for Help
Often, people with substance use disorders grew up in homes that were unstable. Their parents may have been struggling with their own substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, poverty, or other forms of trauma. This creates a situation where they have no frame of reference for how to create a healthy family dynamic.
It’s perfectly normal to feel alone and afraid at this stage in your recovery. Parenting is a huge responsibility and the fact that you’re worried about being up for the job means you’re committed to doing what’s best for your child. Seeking out parenting classes, family counseling, and other community-based resources can help you feel more confident about your parenting skills. If your child is old enough to attend school, being a parent volunteer can help you make connections with other parents who can offer support and encouragement.
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we’re committed to helping our clients learn to live full and productive lives without the influence of addictive substances. If you have questions about parenting while in recovery, we’re here to help.