If you’re in recovery and if you’re also a parent, perhaps you struggle with keeping your cool or being a role model, or perhaps most importantly, instilling sobriety in your children. If you were raised in a household with addiction, how do you raise your own children in a healthy, loving way?
This is a question that many recovering addicts who are now also parents struggle with. This article will address this problem and include some suggestions for how to raise healthy children who know how to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
First, teach your children resiliency. It’s likely that if you grew up with addiction in your family of origin, then the ability to be resilient might not have been so strong. You might have seen your parents or siblings turn to drugs when they were unable to handle life’s challenges. When a parent became anxious, he or she might have turned to taking Xanax. When an older brother was dumped by his girlfriend, he might have turned to drinking at the bar with his buddies.
If you want to prevent the abuse of alcohol in those you love, especially your children, teach them how to be resilient. Certainly, one pivotal component to parenting is modeling the balance between the ability to access one’s own personal power and the need to rely on external sources to regain our power when we’ve lost it. Powerlessness is at the root of addiction. As parents, if you can empower your children to be strong, resourceful, and self-reliant, they will likely avoid the dangers of drug use and addiction.
One way to do this is to be a model for your children, particularly with the use of self-care. Having a daily plan of self-care, such as taking hot baths, going for walks, meditating, prayer, or exercise can be the means by which you take good care of yourself. With a high level of self care, you’re less likely to explode when things get tough at home. Or when you’re having trouble paying the bills, your anxiety will be soothed by your extensive self care. By taking good care of yourself, you’re doing two things: you’re putting the oxygen mask on first. Rather than giving yourself to your children first, which is common for mothers, you’re filling your emotional and spiritual cup first. Second, you’re teaching your children that you have the ability to soothe yourself in healthy ways. Frequently, the use of drugs and alcohol is a means to self-soothe when challenging emotions arise or when difficult internal states are present. High amounts of self-care is a way to model for your children the ability to self-soothe.
Second, engage in family activities where each of you are present and having fun. When families eat together, go for walks together, and spend time together on a regular basis, relationships get stronger. The bonds between mother and daughter, father and son, and parents set the foundation for a healthy family. Some more examples are have a movie night, bake cookies together, go to a local farmer’s market together, go camping, and play board games together. By sharing rewarding fun activities, the relationships in the family become a strong network of support for your children, versus the tendency for them to turn to drugs and alcohol.
Third, let your children know that you love them. Showing and communicating love to your children can happen in many different ways. For instance, let them know of their achievements, compliment them whenever you can, be a good listener, and create firm boundaries for their safety. For instance, if your teen wants to go out one night and stay out until 3am, creating a firm boundary of a 11pm curfew sends the message that you care about your teen and that you want him or her home safe. Although your teen may not like it, it does in fact send a message of love. Of course, your teenage children may need to learn their own lessons. But you can provide them with guidelines. You can let your life be an example of sober living and of what to avoid. Your long journey of addiction and finally finding sober help can be a model for them.
Although it might be difficult to instill in your children lessons you yourself are still learning, it’s possible. There are many recovering addicts who have broken the generational chain of addiction – and you can too.
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