Addiction is a disease that affects everyone it touches. Many times the relationship addiction harms the most is the relationship between parent and child. Children of addicts often suffer from neglect and even abuse as their parent struggles to fuel their addiction.
Children whose parents are addicts are much more likely to become addicts themselves, and have other emotional and behavioral problems as well. Addressing the damage done to your child as part of your recovery can help reverse the damage done, and give your kids a brighter future.
Your child is going to have a lot of questions about your addictive behavior and they're going to need answers before they’ll be able to trust you again. The good news is children are very forgiving and open to love, as long as you can be open and honest with them. Explaining your addiction, taking responsibility for your actions, offering sincere apologies, and setting family goals for the future should get the ball rolling again.
One common mistake parents make when trying to reconnect with their children in the wake of an addiction is to overindulge or withhold discipline and boundaries. This is due in large part to the feelings of guilt surrounding your past behaviors, but you won’t be doing your child any favors. No matter what the circumstances, children need and respect boundaries, security, and a guiding hand from someone who can put their best interests first.
Addiction recovery is a family matter, and your whole family will need some counseling in order to come to terms with your new and changing family dynamic. Individual and group counseling are both helpful, especially for children. Children will benefit greatly from some one-on-one time with a therapist who can bring true feelings to the surface and address them.
Prioritizing Your Child
It’s absolutely true that you can’t be a proper parent until you get your addiction under control, and that you have to make your physical, emotional, and spiritual health your top priority throughout your recovery. Beyond this, though, your child needs to come first if you want to reestablish trust. You need to show your child that you’re going to be there for them by taking care of yourself and by providing as stable of a lifestyle as you can for them. Addiction recovery is all about making life changes, but not all of these need to affect your child. Don’t lean on them as a source of support, but do view them as your reason to get better.