Emoticons of a thumbs up, clapping hands, thumb and forefinger circle to Barbara Krovitz-Neren, MA* for her generous contribution of this guest blog. Parents express their own emotion anticipating a child coming out of treatment and that would be terror. How do we act? What do we do and not do, say and not say, change and not change? Barbara’s work is SO needed because our parenting took a boatload of hits and got concussed. Oh for someone to help us get back on track.
The lack of ongoing support for parents after their addicted adolescent or young adult has gone through treatment is astounding . Parents are essential in helping sustain recovery and need support during that first year when the whole family is fragile from the years of addicted dysfunction. Parents who have been part of their children’s recovery process—from treatment to aftercare—have witnessed a multitude of changes in many of their children. When these kids leave treatment and visit or live back at home, they need a different structure at home to help them feel supported in their recovery. Parents need to find a way to restructure their parenting to embrace a sober household both with actions, emotions, and responses.
During the past three years, I polled 300 recovering adolescents and young adults to collect their insights on what they have needed from their parents. Their wise words have been the inspiration for 5-Step Foundational Parenting—an approach that enables parents to regain positive energy in their families and take charge again with 5 key strategies that will rebuild their foundation.
What Do Kids Need From Their Parents?
Below are some of the responses from adolescents and young adults when asked, “If you were a parent, what would you do differently?”
- I would have shown up and been around more
- I would nurture my kids
- Be less controlling
- Talk more about drugs and alcohol
- I wouldn’t be overbearing and when my kids were upset. I would just listen instead of trying to fix them.
- Tell my child how special they are to me and that they are loved
- Keep better tabs on how my child spent all the money given to them
Healthy parenting is vital for a child’s continued sobriety.
A healthy parenting approach does not allow for a child’s moods or actions to cause reactions that escalate into a destructive situation. The addiction or threat of a relapse is no longer permitted to rule the home, depleting the parents’ energy and power. When parents are clear about their values and expectations and adhere to them, children can push and test, but healthy parenting doesn’t allow this to influence them into bending the rules. In this way, children know that parents “mean what they say and say what they mean.”
“How has addiction affected your relationship with your parents?”
- They lost trust in me, and I’m not sure when it will ever be back.
- My addiction further distanced our relationship.
- When I was depressed, I totally shut down and blocked my parents out, which only caused them to try harder.
- My addiction was like a heavy fence around me, kicking out my parents.
Dear Parents, I wish you knew....
- I did my best and tried to be stable but couldn’t. I also wish you knew how much I have suffered. Sometimes I feel that they only saw my maladaptive behavior as an attack against them rather than a cry for help or an act of desperation
- That I’m trapped in a vicious cycle.
- I didn’t make a conscience decision to become addicted to drugs
- That I love them and never wanted to hurt them with my addiction
Oftentimes, when adolescents or young adults leave treatment either through graduation or on their own, parents often haven’t had a long enough opportunity to practice strengthening new strategies in reclaiming their parenting. Parents frequently continue to use old habits that have enabled drug/alcohol use. When parents begin to see that old ways don’t work, there is tremendous frustration, blame and hopelessness again.
Through my work with 5 Step Parent Groups, parent weekend seminars, and parent coaching, I have seen parents transform and take back themselves and strengthen their families when they:
l. Practiced being present with their children
2. Practiced emotional attunement with their children
3. Learned how to act and respond without reaction to their children
4. Recreated family rituals and sacred time with their family
5. Clarified values, rules, boundaries in their families.
Parents can learn these steps and practice them a day at a time to help recreate a healthier family and empowered parenting.
*ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Krovitz-Neren, M.A., has worked in the addiction field and has been a youth and parenting advocate for more than thirty years. During the past three years, she developed 5-Step Foundational Parenting Programs, which she spearheads through the organization Competent Parents, Confident Kids. http://competentparents.com She coaches parents who have kids who are still using or in recovery, consults with programs to develop aftercare/parenting programs, and is available to train parent to parent mentors using this model. She can also work with parent groups, treatment programs, to train them how to set up a strong aftercare program for their parents, and can train parents to lead 5 step groups in their communities.