If you’re the parent of a child with addiction problems, you have probably received more than your fair share of “advice” from concerned friends and relatives. The following statements might sound familiar:
“You have to enforce consequences for his actions”
“She just needs some Tough Love”
“You should cut off all communications with him until he quits using”
While these advice-givers mean well, we often find that these “tips” just don’t work – for either the addict or the parent!
Parents who attempt the “tough love” approach often come to us in group meetings, saying, “This just doesn’t feel right. It goes against my basic instincts as a mother, to turn away from my child like this. I still love him. I still want a relationship with him”.
On the other hand, we also see parents who say, “I don’t know how much of this I can take. Being involved in this addiction is driving me crazy… I fear I’ll end up dead or in a mental institution myself”.
Indeed, a delicate balance does exist between deep involvement and complete detachment. Going to either extreme is likely to hurt you, the parent, more than it will ever help you or your child. But we have found that parents do tend to go to these extremes, because they have never taken a step back and asked themselves some simple questions:
“What do I need?”
“What parts can I participate in when it comes to my child that is struggling?”
“When do I need to step out in order to remain safe?”
If these are questions that you have never thought to ponder, you may find your relationship with your child, your home environment and your life in general, confusing, chaotic and out of balance.
The answers to these questions are different for each parent, with practice it can allow moms and dads the opportunity to answer them in a way that feels right to them and their situation specifically.
Dealing with addictive disorders with those we love is challenging, mentally, physically and emotionally, establishing clarity of our own limits, can equip us, not only for our day to day survival, but also for the next time a well meaning loved one or friend offers advice.
“I don’t know the all the answers to all that is happening with our child, but right now I am choosing to remain connected as we try to navigate through this difficult time. I could really use your support as we take this day by day”.
If you would like to learn more about the strategies discussed in this blog you can attend our Parent Support Group. These, free of charge, meetings seek to provide the support and guidance parents need, as they find their footing in this challenging territory.