You’ve been through it yourself. Perhaps your addiction started early, when you were a child, or later when you were an adolescent. But now that you’re sober and a parent, you want to help your children avoid the same mistakes you made. You want to help them stay clean, sober, and successful.
The following five tips are for parents who have a sober living lifestyle, but who know the dangers of youth, especially the presence of drugs and alcohol in their children’s lives.
- Be a good listener. Most children want to be heard and understood. They want to know that what they say, the experiences they’re having, and the thoughts they are thinking matter. As a parent, you can provide this. You can do this by listening in a deep way. Watch your child’s body language. Listen for what he or she is communicating underneath the words. Then, when you respond, repeat back to your child what you heard in your own words. This process strengthens trust and respect. Your child will likely feel heard and understood, and in response, your child may be more willing to discuss in more detail his or her life, thoughts, desires, needs, and challenges. And, more importantly, he or she will also be more open to hear what you have to say. By building this kind of respect, you can facilitate the ease that your child needs to child feeling comfortable bringing problems or questions to you. To facilitate sober living in your child, build this kind of parent-child relationship anchored in trust and respect.
- Be available to discuss sensitive subjects. The above tip can facilitate communicating to your teens and younger children that you are available to discuss what might feel uncomfortable to them. Children need to know they can rely on you for support, encouragement, validation, and accurate information about drugs and drinking. When a children feel safe in relationships with their family, especially parents, he or she feels secure enough to explore the world around him or her, and this can include exploring sensitive subjects. When there’s safety in relationships and in communication between two people, children will feel comfortable in talking about sensitive subjects. Often, addiction begins because of the lack of safety that frequently exists in early childhood homes. You can facilitate sober living in your children through safety and ease of discussing what’s difficult.
- Be a good role model. Of course, most children are looking at their parents, even unconsciously, with regard to their behavior, choices, and attitudes. You can let your life be an example of sobriety and living a full and meaningful life without drugs and alcohol. Your own habits and attitudes about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs make a big impression on your child. Parents, you can empower your children to be strong, resourceful, and self-reliant through your own example.
- Be straight on tough topics. As a parent, you should clearly communicate your expectations, guidelines, and boundaries, especially around drug and alcohol use. Give clear, specific messages when talking about drugs of any kind, so your child knows exactly what is expected of him. Articulating clearly that drugs and alcohol are not tolerated by you helps make it clear for your children. Knowing what’s expected of them helps them know right from wrong, and this is particularly true for drinking and drug use.
- Be media-savvy. Many risks are born out of spending too much time online, such as cyber bullying, temptations for engaging in risky behavior, and information that can easily pressure teens in doing what they might not otherwise do. Furthermore, you can read, watch TV, and go to the movies with your child in order to differentiate the often glorified images of drug use compared to the realistic dangers of using drugs and alcohol. You can help your child with sober living by observing what he or she is exposed to.
Although experimenting with drugs can frequently come with childhood, especially for children who live in unsafe and dysfunctional homes, it doesn’t have to be that way. The above tips can help your children stay clear of drug use and drinking and sober living for your entire family.
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