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This is great information that so many parents crave as they fear what will happen when their child returns home and ask, “What should we do?” Thank you, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

6 Things to Do Before Your Kid Comes Home from Addiction Treatment

welcome home from treatment

The day has finally come for you and your family to welcome your son or daughter back from a residential treatment program (rehab) for addiction to drugs or alcohol. You may be cautiously optimistic for the homecoming or you may be worried about how it will go. You may not feel ready for your child to come home yet, remembering that feeling of walking on eggshells when he or she was home last, struggling with their substance use. These feelings are completely normal and you may even be experiencing them simultaneously.

You and your child are about to enter a new phase in a long process called recovery. It will still involve sacrifice for you and your family, and it’s best to talk about what that will mean for everyone and plan for it. Although you cannot control what will happen (as your son or daughter is ultimately responsible for his or her own recovery), you absolutely can be proactive and better prepared to be supportive in your child’s recovery.

1. First, it’s time for a thorough housecleaning to prevent any temptations.

  • Take all substances and paraphernalia you can find out of your home.
  • Secure all alcohol or remove it completely from your home.
  • Lock up your medicine cabinet and dispose of any old or unused prescriptions.
  • Search your son or daughter’s room for drugs, alcohol and paraphernalia — and then search it again.

2. Next, get naloxone as a prevention measure.

  • If your child’s substance use included opioids (heroin and prescription pain medications like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet), have you obtained a Naloxone kit? Naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan) can reverse an overdose, potentially saving a loved one’s life. It’s never the wrong choice to be safe. In many states, chain drugstores, as well as some independent drugstores, are providing naloxone through their pharmacies without requiring a prescription.
  • Is the Naloxone kit easily accessible in your home?
  • Have you and your family members learned how to use the Naloxone kit?

3. Make the aftercare plan a priority.

The first step is to fully understand what the treatment facility is recommending for the next steps and clarify anything that is unclear or concerning to you. Hopefully, you and your family were part of developing this “aftercare,” “discharge,” “continuing care” or “stepdown” plan — the plan for those next steps after treatment.

Aftercare plans could include the following:

  • Family counseling
  • An outpatient program
  • Recovery support groups
  • Psychiatric appointments
  • Ongoing psychiatric medications, and/or medication-assisted treatment

Things to consider:

  • Is your son or daughter going to need a ride to and from an outpatient program or to counseling or support groups? Since this is vital to their recovery, if transportation is needed, make arrangements ahead of time with your employer or hire someone to drive him or her to appointments, programs or meetings.
  • You may need to make plans to take time off from work to attend family meetings that are a part of your child’s aftercare program. Your continued involvement matters very much to your child —despite what he or she may say.
  • Your child may need help in finding healthy friends and activities, given that many of their friends are likely still using substances.
  • If your child is living in sober housing or in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) or whatever the step down plan instead of coming home, you will want to become familiar with the requirements and rules for his or her stay in this type of living community.

Even though your son or daughter is the one receiving treatment, the rest of the family would greatly benefit from regular counseling and support groups of their own. This can be a difficult time of transition for your family and it’s critical everyone is supported, has help coping and addressing any issues that come up.

4. Try CRAFT skills to improve communications in your family.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training, or CRAFT, is a scientifically proven approach to help parents with skills to stay involved in their child’s recovery in a positive, ongoing way. CRAFT provides families like yours with tools to better understand your child’s reasons for substance use, ways to improve communication and to reward non-using behaviors while discouraging substance use. Equally important are the tools around self-care to handle negative emotions like anger, guilt and depression, and to address feelings of isolation.

5. Develop a contract and a Recovery Plan

You’ll want to establish some boundaries and rules with your child. Some families find it helpful to develop a contract that includes both positive reinforcement or rewards for good behavior and consequences when they push boundaries or break the rules.

In addition to a contract that simply states what is expected, you should also create a Recovery Plan. A Recovery Plan is for both you and your son or daughter to put down in writing what you both agree to do (or not do) to help support and maintain continued recovery and personal growth.

Plan to sit down during a calm time soon after they get home to develop a plan as a family. Here are some questions to ask your child as you develop your plan:

  • How can I be helpful?
  • What would be stressful or unhelpful for you?
  • Can we agree on what will be discussed and what won’t?
  • Can we talk about how we will communicate with each other in both easy and difficult situations?
  • Would you prefer to keep your treatment and recovery private from others outside our family?
  • If you are willing to talk about it, with whom and how much information will you provide?

Are there upcoming family weddings, barbecues, parties or other gatherings where alcohol will be served that might be too difficult or a trigger for your son or daughter so new to recovery? Decide as a family if you will decline an invite or attend with a plan in mind to protect your child’s recovery first. Can you think of fun activities to do together as a family? After all, your son or daughter may need to stay away from the friends they were hanging around before they went to treatment.

6. Take it one day — perhaps one minute — at a time.

The first few weeks and months of recovery will probably be the hardest. Your son or daughter will most likely go through periods of emotional ups and downs. He or she may be angry at times (at him/herself, at you, at others, or just angry), sad at other times, or even may seem manipulative or distant.

Other times he or she may be grateful and more like the person you used to know — savor those moments! Be sure to point out any and all positives, and offer hope and compassion. There isn’t a “one size fits all” road map to recovery.

Good luck to you and your family, and never give up. There is hope.

Get Your Comprehensive Guide to Your Child’s Return from Treatment

After addiction treatment, what happens next? This downloadable PDF guide (scroll to end of article) covers all you need to know about how to best support your child after he or she finishes addiction treatment.