Elderly mom with her addicted child, hoping to help without enabling behaviors

How to Help Your Addicted Child

Is there a way to help your addicted child without making things worse? How can you let them know that you care and want the best for them without enabling their addiction or being naive to the deceit or manipulation you fear from them? Our blog today discusses five things you can do to help your addicted child or children. 


Watching a child or children grow from infancy to adulthood and experiencing all the milestones in between, like learning to walk, talk and drive, and experiencing graduations, weddings and other joys, can be the greatest thing in the world for a parent. The love and pride a parent has for their kids can make it all the more heartbreaking when that child grows up and makes choices that can damage their life and well-being, such as drug use and abuse.


When dealing with an adult child, especially one with children of their own, you may feel like you no longer have the control or influence over them that you once did when they were younger. Still, the maternal or paternal instincts and concerns regarding your child remain, prompting you to want to do whatever you can by any means necessary to help your child take back control of their life. 


Wanting to take on the responsibility of getting your child sober and helping them overcome substance abuse and addiction can overwhelm you and make you feel helpless. Recognize that it is okay that you cannot make such a significant life change alone. Reaching out to mental health professionals and clinicians such as those at The Ranch Tennessee for support and information and following the tips below can empower you enough to help your child recover from an addiction.


Tip #1: Learn What You Can About Addiction

An essential part of this first step begins with learning about how addiction works, what drives repeated use—emotionally, physically and mentally—and the specific demons your child faces. 


How Addiction Develops

Using drugs for the first time can increase the release of dopamine—a neurotransmitter produced in the body, involved in the brain’s reward system and our experience of pleasure. Chronic drug use and abuse can develop in people with repeated exposure to substances that activate the reward system and produce experience-dependent learning and related brain changes. Commonly abused substances consist of chemicals with intoxicating effects that train the brain to want and seek more, no matter the costs. 


Ultimately, chronic substance use can hijack the brain’s pleasure centers. As a result, activities and relationships that were once enjoyable no longer bring a person happiness. This hijacking of the brain’s pleasure centers explains why some individuals neglect their personal and professional responsibilities to keep up their drug use.


It’s common for some people dealing with addiction to ignore their responsibilities. In some cases, people may resort to deceitful tactics to obtain and use more drugs, with no regard for the adverse outcomes that can affect themselves and others. Such actions can do significant damage to the relationship you have built with them. However, communicating openly and assertively with your child can help you keep your relationship strong.


Tip #2: Strengthen Your Relationship and Communication With Your Child

Developing Good Communication

Good, clear communication can effectively allow you to detect problems sooner than later and give appropriate reactions. To have productive discussions this way, try actively listening to your child and asking meaningful questions. Consider asking questions like: 

  • What can I do to help you?
  • Why did you begin using drugs?
  • Do you want to quit using substances?
  • Why do you want to stop using substances?
  • What likes and dislikes do you have about the idea of receiving treatment?
  • What kinds of activities could help you with sobriety?


Questions like these are judgment-free and open-ended, allowing for increased communication and chances for your child to express themselves and exchange ideas with you. Communicating this way can equip you with more information about your child, their struggles, concerns, hopes and goals, guiding the direction you take and decisions you make seeking professional help and treatment for them.


Tip #3: Set Consistent Guidelines and Reinforce Them

Once you open the channels of communication with your child and reassure them that they can feel comfortable speaking with you about their habits, health and hopes, establish guidelines with them. By establishing policies for the household, you are setting clear expectations about behaviors you will or will not accept from your child. Guidelines will not only be helpful for your child, but they can help you determine the ways you will react to situations as they occur.


The best guidelines are likely to result from conversations you have had with your child. Developing household policies together can be a fair way to ensure that you and your child both get the chance to say regarding acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and their consequences. Remember that even if you and your child develop strong guidelines, lacking consistency in practicing them will make them ineffective. 


Tip #4: Make Clear Boundaries

When making the attempts to care for your child’s needs during periods of turmoil and conflict, you could experience stress and strong emotions that could make you want to give up. Consider setting boundaries to ensure you don’t take on more responsibilities than you can handle or deal with unfair behavior from your child.


Similar to guidelines, boundaries may encompass not only actions, behaviors and conversations that you deem acceptable or unacceptable but also things that you may choose to do for your child and those you may refuse to do. 


Personal boundaries are typically based on an individual’s values and needs. Specifically, a personal boundary an individual may set for themselves refers to an emotional or physical limit they developed intending to protect their well-being and physical, mental and emotional health. An example of an unhealthy boundary is a thought or behavior that an individual can misuse to manipulate the people close to them and keep them at bay. However, a healthy limit is practical at ensuring relationships will be safe, respectful and supportive.


When creating clear boundaries with your child, be firm that you won’t sacrifice their needs or your own for their wants associated with substance use; you are unwilling to tell lies for your child; and that you will not accept or encourage any more substance abuse.


By consistently maintaining boundaries, you can make a clear distinction between genuinely helping your child and enabling their drug-abusing habits. Enabling can indicate that there are little to no limits in place, and parents take on too much responsibility for their child’s actions. Enabling behaviors include:

  • Making excuses for a child
  • Blaming oneself for their addiction
  • Unintentionally reinforcing substance use by providing housing, access to sellable goods or financial support, etc.


Setting solid boundaries may cause short-term conflicts within families, but they allow you to demonstrate to your child that their actions will not manipulate you.


Tip #5: Be as Positive as Possible and Encourage Professional Treatment

When helping your child initiate treatment and work toward recovery and sobriety, you should keep in mind that your perspective of their journey will be different as you’re on the outside looking in. You may find it easy to commend them for recognizing that a problem exists and having the desire to get clean, but they may find it easier to feel guilt and blame themselves for using drugs in the first place. 


Be considerate of the fact that for someone battling substance abuse and addiction, their worst enemy and most prominent critic may live between their ears—they may think negatively about themselves and focus too much on their mistakes and poor decisions.


By emphasizing the positives, motivating your child to engage in more desirable behaviors and encouraging treatment, you can build a sense of cooperation and understanding. Doing so enables you to diminish negativity and conflict, perhaps helping them pick up the pieces of their self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-power. 


Point out the benefits of participating in treatment and therapy programs: new activities to fill the void left by substances, healthier coping skills and positive peer support and relationships. Verbalize to your child that you have faith in them, think they are intelligent and capable of achieving success, and how much you value them and need them in your life.


Tip #6: Be Proactive and Participate in the Process of Searching for a Safe Treatment Center

Be a viable partner in your child’s recovery by helping them research and tour treatment and counseling facilities. The Ranch in Tennessee, for instance, can make a significant difference in your child’s recovery journey and their mental, emotional and physical health. Therapists, mental health professionals, clinicians and medical team members at this center implement medical-based treatment, holistic therapies and evidence-based programs, including, but not limited to:


At The Ranch, our treatment specialists and therapists understand how crucial parents, partners, family members, friends and other social and emotional support systems can be before, during, and after treatment and recovery. Not only do we provide evidence-based detox and treatment programs, but we also encourage patients and their loved ones to participate in the family recovery program as necessary.


Addiction, eating disorders, intimacy disorders, mental and physical illnesses and more can destroy relationships and divide families. When one family member is battling addiction or psychological or behavioral health issues, the entire family can feel the impact. For this reason, along with research that demonstrates how family members who participate in the recovery process can positively influence mental health treatment, the center is open for patients and their families to strengthen their dynamic in ways conducive to their health individually and collectively.

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