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How to Help a Child Who Has an Addiction

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One of the greatest joys in life is having children and watching them grow and mature into healthy, functioning adults. One of the greatest pains in life is watching as children struggle to find themselves. If you have a child who suffers from an addiction, you know this pain all too well. The question is, what can you do about it?

Child development

5 Tips for Parents of Addicts

Alcohol and drug addiction don’t pop up overnight or emerge in a matter of days. Addiction is the result of months and years of repeated behavior that gradually gets worse over time. Typically, it sneaks up on you. 

If you’re just becoming aware of the fact that your child has an addiction, it’s important that you respond in a calculated and sensitive manner. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t Ignore the Problem

Under no circumstances should you ignore the problem or make excuses for your child. Doing so only enables and invigorates them. And while it’s often uncomfortable to confront a child about such a serious issue, it’s what you need to do in order to help them recover and find freedom.

  1. Stop Trying to Fix it on Your Own

While it’s never a good idea to ignore an addiction, it’s also not up to you to fix it on your own. Only the addict can make the decision to change their life. Your efforts will be futile until you realize this.

“Many times, parents try to make that decision for them and it only winds up resulting in more frustration and failure,” DrugFree.org notes. “What parents can do is encourage them to seek help or treatment, and let them arrive at the decision themselves.”

In light of this, you may need to cultivate stronger levels of patience. Waiting for a child to come around can be agonizing, but it’s part of the process.

  1. Communication Frequently and Freely

Your child needs to know that you’re available to talk about anything. Even if they’re unwilling to speak to you about their addiction at the moment, you can keep the lines of communication open by discussing other topics. When they’re ready, they’ll come to you.

  1. Consider Staging an Intervention

Interventions can be highly effective and useful in situations where the addict is having trouble recognizing the extent and severity of their problems. But in order for an intervention to work, it must be strategic and intentional.

The process begins by forming a team to head up and carry out the intervention. This intervention team needs to be cooperative and consistent in their approach.

“Everyone who’s part of the intervention team should be on the same page about how the meeting will go,” Rehab Adviser mentions. “If anyone is argumentative or not following the plan, then they shouldn’t be included. Likewise, anyone who might make your loved one feel attacked shouldn’t be included.”

It may be a good idea to host a pre-meeting to plan and rehearse the intervention ahead of time. This allows the team to determine what order they’ll speak in, who will say what, and which tactics can be used to ensure the intervention goes as smoothly as possible. 

  1. Show Unconditional Love

As a parent, you’re called to show unconditional love to your child. Some circumstances make this easy and effortless, while other factors make it more difficult. An addiction certainly falls into the latter category.

Showing unconditional love doesn’t mean supporting your child’s negative behaviors and erratic tendencies. It means regularly expressing your love and support for your child as an individual. You can do this through both words and actions.

Never Stop Caring for Yourself

As a parent, you give everything you have to protect your child, nurture them, and ensure they have the best possible chance of being successful. But there’s only so much you can do. In order to continue pouring out, you must steadily fill yourself up.

Self-care is an important component in this equation. Take time to care for yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. You need to adopt behaviors and relationships that offer encouragement and nourishment so that you can provide those same things for your child. If you ever feel as if you’re being worn too thin, take a step back and regroup. Otherwise you’ll end up doing your child a disservice.

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