How to Parent Well While Recovering from Addiction
After graduating from rehab, it’s normal to have a lot of questions, concerns, and fears about what comes next. If you’re a parent, one of your most pressing questions may be, “How do I parent well while recovering from addiction?” Like recovery, parenting is a journey that requires time and patience.
Read on to learn some helpful tips to ensure both your recovery and parenting journeys lead to a successful future for you and your kids.
Don’t neglect recovery
You may feel guilty about the time spent away from your kids while in rehab and, as a result, be tempted to compensate for the time by prioritizing your kids over your recovery in this new season. It’s important to remember that you can only be the parent that you want to be—and that your kids need you to be—when you are sober and healthy. You may find that your children are hesitant to believe that the change in you is a permanent one. In order to rebuild that trust and parent well, continue to keep recovery a priority to decrease the likelihood of a relapse that will only hurt you and them.
Form new memories as a family
As you start a new season of parenting through recovery, look for opportunities to make new memories together as a family. Simply spend time with your children doing something they enjoy, such as solving a puzzle, playing a sport, or dancing around the house to their favorite music. In rehab, you may have discovered a love for a new hobby, such as playing an instrument, swimming, or hiking. By sharing that activity with your children, you are modeling that you—and they!—can have fun without drugs or alcohol.
Don’t do life alone
Parenting is a rewarding journey, but it is also a challenging one—even without the added obstacle of recovery. Isolating yourself from a community only makes it harder. Join a church, find new friends online, or simply reach out to other parents in your neighborhood. Your kids need community, too, so encourage an extracurricular activity as an opportunity to form friendships. This can also give your kids something safe and productive to do in your absence while you continue maintaining a successful recovery.
Offer support, but resist the urge to fix
Your kids, no matter their age, likely have a range of emotions about your recovery journey. Some days, they may be excited to have you home and express love and joy. Other days, they may express doubt, fear, anger, or hurt. Allow your children to feel whatever feelings they have without judgment, and don’t expect them to immediately forgive and forget the past. As you offer love and support, remember that it’s not your job to immediately fix everything they are going through. Be supportive, but give them space to work through their emotions as well.
Commit to boundaries and structure
Parents who feel guilty for past lifestyle choices may be tempted to shower their children in gifts or take an overly lenient approach as a way of “making amends.” However, children and teenagers need and long for boundaries, predictability, and structure. They need you to be their parent, not their best friend. If these boundaries are new for your family, your children may push back or point the blame at you for not following rules in the past. When this happens, use it as an opportunity to talk about the consequences you faced and how they, too, have consequences when they go off course. Acknowledge your own faults honestly, then use them to explain how you don’t want to see your kids follow in your footsteps. Celebrate the potential you see in them and explain that you want to see them fulfill that potential.
Give yourself—and your kids—grace
Recovery is a challenging journey that doesn’t end the day you leave rehab. You’ll need to continue implementing the tools you’ve learned in rehab and may even decide to join a local recovery support group. Likewise, establishing healthier parenting habits takes time. Be patient with yourself and your kids as you navigate new waters together—and remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Commit yourself to being the best parent you can be today, and give grace freely to yourself and your kids as you stumble and get back up along the way.
If you’re struggling with addiction to drugs, alcohol, or a harmful behavior, the first step in becoming a better parent is getting help with your own recovery journey.