Much has been written about how parents can help their teen children who are in recovery from substance abuse, but what about when parents are in recovery and want to prevent their teen from following their example?
People who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to believe that their behavior does not affect others, but reality proves that friends and family members can be greatly affected. When a parent is abusing substances, children in particular may react by engaging in risky behavior, doing poorly in school and demonstrating aggression, anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties.
Ideally, parents are good role models for their children. Parents who have successfully completed rehabilitation treatment and are in recovery want to make sure their teen child does not fall into the substance abuse trap. They may worry that a genetic predisposition may be involved and what they can do to break the cycle.
Although addiction has a genetic factor, environmental influences play a large part in determining outcomes. Genetics cannot be changed, but environmental factors can, so parents in recovery can influence their teens to practice a healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically. Preventing addiction is far easier than treating an entrenched addiction.
Most teens don’t receive what they think of as “lecturing” very well. Advising them to steer clear of drugs and alcohol is good advice but often falls on deaf ears, and peer pressure to use can be strong. Having fun with a child provides a perfect example of good family relationships. Going to a movie, baking together, playing video games, walking the dog, and a short road trip are pursuits that facilitate spending time together and sharing normal experiences. Making sure a teen knows a parent is available for nonjudgmental discussions goes a long way to establishing good rapport.
There may be guilt that a child has been exposed to poor behavior by a parent, but recovering parents should take good care of themselves to maintain sobriety and keep the family relationships intact. No one has to be a “super parent” to make up for past transgressions; simply practicing good parenting skills is enough.
Focus on the positive things accomplished by the child. Parents tend to immediately pounce when a teen does something wrong but often neglect to praise them for a positive action. Praise can go a long way in a parent-child relationship, and reinforcing self-esteem and healthy behaviors.
As teens get older, a parent may feel they have lost control, but they should continue setting a good example and maintain communication. Laying good groundwork usually leads to good results eventually.
Sovereign Health is a behavioral treatment center with a facility in Rancho San Diego devoted exclusively to teen treatment. For further information regarding teen or adult treatment, please call our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer