Parenting is the most wonderful job in the world and the hardest thing you will ever do. Most parents aspire to be the best parents they can be, but it’s not done without struggles or mistakes. There is no perfect parent just as there are no perfect children! While parenting is difficult for everyone, parenting while in recovery can be even harder. Unwillingly and unaware at times, dependent or addicted parents inflict mental, emotional, and sometimes physical pain on their children. And trying to pick up the pieces of that is hard and takes time. Now that you are clean, sober and moving forward with your life, there are some things to remember when rebuilding the relationships with your children.
Take care of yourself!
You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself first. We spend so much time neglecting ourselves when we’re using/drinking and these habits can be hard to break. In order to give our children what they need, we need to make sure that we’re working our programs and practicing self-care. It’s common for parents in recovery to feel shame and guilt over what their children went through while they were using. As a result, parents in recovery want to try and “make everything better” by focusing solely on their children. However, this can’t be done if you end up neglecting your program or self-care. Take care of yourself! Get good sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Work on reducing stress and anxiety. Be honest about what you’re going through. Continue to see your counselor and attend your support groups. By committing to your recovery and self-care, you will be more present for your children.
Be honest about your struggles and apologize for your part in theirs.
I believe it’s important to be open with your children. While honesty is crucial, letting your children know every detail of your addictive behavior is not necessary. Be honest with them that you’ve been struggling with a problem and are getting help with it. Let them know you are sorry for the way your behavior has affected them. And assist them in understanding that they’re not the reason for your actions or lack of. When you admit to your mistakes, you help validate their feelings. Especially in the behaviors they do not understand but feel responsible for. And let them know of your commitment to change and how you plan on doing that.
Spend time with your children.
There is no greater gift than spending time with your children…that’s all they really want from us. They want our attention and commitment to them at the moment they ask or when we say we’re going to give it. So keep your promises to them. If you say you are going to do something, do it! Rebuilding the connection between parent and child can feel tough at times, but the more quality time you spend with your child, the more trust and confidence you will rebuild. At our core, human beings long for connection. I believe it’s even greater for children as they are growing and developing. Give them the gift of YOU back!
Be patient with yourself and your children. Dependency and addiction didn’t happen overnight so you can’t expect recovery to be quick. This journey takes time. Be kind to yourself. And know that you and your children will have moments of frustration, sadness, anger and insecurity. Validate those feelings and move forward with positive ones. Focus on the good things that have happened everyday since you’ve been clean and sober. Let the negative go. Remember that our kids will have their own path of recovery to follow. As a result, they will struggle with feelings of trust and self-worth. Be there for them. Love them through their struggles. And let them know it’s okay to feel what they feel.
There is no magic fix or set of steps that will guarantee you a perfect relationship with your children. All we can do as recovering parents is acknowledge and apologize for our mistakes, work our programs, love our children, be present in their lives, validate their thoughts and emotions, and be better. Time, commitment to growth, and a healthier way of life does truly heal wounds.
To learn more or schedule an appointment at AWCC, please contact us 832-421-8714.