In continuation to yesterday’s post, Let take this journey this morning.
Addiction may seem like a far off, distant problem, which may never affect you or your family. But the reality is, everyday millions of parents across the globe are facing the nightmare of having an addicted child.
Parents of addicted children reacts to the pain in many different ways; enabling their child, trying to ‘fix ‘ the situation by absorbing their consequences, turning a blind eye to the problem, or even just hoping that their addiction will fade away naturally into thin air with time.
In the meantime, parents lose sight of reality, lose control of their own lives and almost lose hope on the salvation of their children from such bondage. It is never too late to be a better parent; things can yet be changed for good. All addictions are progressive in nature, and unless it is addressed, it gets progressively worse, which eventually results in the desensitization to the people you’re hurting and even yourself physically, psychologically or even spiritually.
Addictions like pornography can make someone objectify the other human that is the focus of their lustful desire and this can also affect every other member of the family, addiction they say is never a spectator game, as in the field of addiction, everyone is a player. There are no spectators; someone’s addiction by default has an effect on family and friends, directly or indirectly. No one houses a monster and expects a cool night rest; same applies to the parents of an addict. He/she is one thing in the day among family and friends and then another thing at night in his/her closet.
Note that; parents are usually the first to sense a problem, even if you may not know what it is, but this can only be possible if you have time enough to observe and follow up on your child. I understand you’ve got to work so you can pay bills and fend for the family, but on the long run, this labor will be inherited by the same child or children, would you rather hand over a little property to a well trained and nurtured son/daughter, or a massive wealth to a lunatic, yes! a lunatic, because that is the end result of an unattended addiction.
There are few steps to follow when helping an addicted child as a parent, these steps are listed below.
STEP BY STEP APPROACH TO HELP AN ADDICTED CHILD
- STRENGTHEN THE RELATIONSHIP.
Have an open and assertive communication, you didn’t notice his/her addictions due to poor relationship between both of you, as a result a breach of communication, reassure your child that you can be trusted with anything at all and keep to every bit of promises you made, especially confidentiality. Ask open ended questions like;
- How can I help you today?
- Why did you decide to start doing it?
- What would make you want to quit?
- What do you like and dislike about quitting?
- What activities would you rather like to do?
- What are some ways to help develop healthy friendship?
Make sure the questions are open ended and non-judgmental as well. An open ended question cannot be answered in a word and so it allows for increased communication and a better exchange of ideas, by so doing you can identify fears, weaknesses and strengths in your child. These questions have the goal of leaving more information about your child.
When communicating with them, note these things;
- Stay engaged and focused
- Be kind and respectful
- Display a sense of acceptance and understanding
- Do not show anger or sorrow by crying
- Reduce distractions so you don’t look less concerned
- Focus on the good and don’t elaborate the bad excessively
- Diminish negative reactions
- ENCOURAGE POSITIVE BEHAVIOR AND TREATMENT
Stop focusing too much on the mistakes, it will diminish confidence, lower self esteem and diminish sense of personal power, leading to a continuous use or indulgence. Remember, the aim of indulging was to achieve a result, so help achieve same result by not using. Some children take substances because they do not have the confidence to stand a bully, emphasize the positives and encourage desirable behaviors suggested by him/her. Encouragement and optimism builds a sense of team work and corporation while reducing conflict and negativity.
Encouragement is not based on comparing your child to others, solving their problems for them, or focusing on past failures, instead, send positive messages like;
- You can do it
- You can be successful
- I believe in you
- You have good ideas
- You’re smart, how can I assist you?
- You’re important
- I value you a lot
- CREATE AND REINFORCE CONSISTENT GUIDELINES
These should be developed in collaboration with your child. Make it in a ‘cause and effect’ format, do not make it look like rules or commands, let it be agreed and suggested unanimously. Don’t make it cumbersome and mind you, it will not be possible to cover all contingency but can be established for the most common events. Avoid inconsistency in these guidelines.
In addition, you can place a condition on financial support, be careful when doing this, study and understand your child well to be sure this will not lead him/her to steal from other people. If the support is conditioned, he will belt up. Imagine a queried staff, he/she will work tooth and nail to regain trust and maintain integrity, same applies to a child on allowance from the parents.
- SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
Boundaries help clarify distinction between helping your child and enabling your child. Enabling is a sign of poor boundaries where you begin taking on too much responsibility for your child’s actions. Enablers’ will;
- Make excuses
- Blame themselves
- Focus on reducing short term pain
- Unintentionally reinforce use.
Strong boundaries will cause conflict in the short run but they will show your child that you cannot be manipulated by their actions. When boundaries are clearly set, your child will take responsibility of every action, making him feel bad for his actions and develop zeal to change.
Be very careful about what your child is suggesting to you, don’t buy into all of his/her ideas, and scrutinize them. Always know when your child is trying to ply on your intelligence, don’t fall for white lies and manipulations, children are smart and observant, they learn character speedily and believe me, your children knows you like the back of their palm and so can easily use your weaknesses against you.
- PRACTICE SELF CARE AND PEACE
Make sure you do not neglect your own personal needs as a parent, caring for the needs of an addicted child grows stress, causing you to run into mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, reduced immunity, obesity, memory and attention problems, heart disease (high BP) etc. so spend time doing activities you like with those you love and practice relaxation skills. Caring for yourself will help you care for your child better, remember, you cannot give what you do not have, so be a picture of what you want your child to be so he/she can see you as a role model and mentor. Make sure you do not quarrel with or accuse your spouse for your child’s addiction, at least not in his/her presence, work hand in hand and carry out strategies to help ameliorate the issue and help the child, quarreling will not solve anything, it will rather scare the addict farther away, remember, at least 70% of addicted children are not happy about being addicts, your constant fights may be the reason for his/her addiction in the first place, your fight may give them the notion that they are the reason for the domestic unrest and this had forced most children to run away from home. Be careful not to blow things out of proportion.
Don’t be too emotional, it is normal thing that parents find it uneasy to be hard on their children, especially the mothers, but also know that the word ‘hard’ is like a two sided coin, it can yield either a negative or a positive result, and the line of difference rests on intentions. If you overly attach emotions, you may not be able to dish out good principles for your addicted child, you will feel they are too cumbersome or painful for him/her, can she stand it/ if I cut off his allowances as punishment, how would he feel?
Now think of these in another way if you continue. Access therefore both the long and short-term benefits and consequences of your emotions on your child and his/her recovery. This doesn’t show hatred in any way, but be bold enough to express your disapproval of some characters and stop hinging it on emotions. These won’t help your child’s recovery because your emotions have given enough reasons for him/her to continue the habit.
- RELAPSE WILL COME BUT BE CAREFUL HOW YOU DEAL WIT IT
Relapse is simply a return to a bad behavior after you have stopped doing it for some time. Relapse can be very hard on addicts , it causes a ‘morning after effect’ where the addict feels very bad and depressed for relapsing after probably a strong decision not to indulge and also an abstinence for some time. The after effects of relapse can be very disastrous if not well handled and so parents must be very careful when dealing with a relapsed child during addiction therapy.
If you treat relapse with levity it will be dangerous for both you the parents and for the child, it can lead to depression, hatred and even suicide, that is why you have to be strict on some grounds to prevent the occurrence of relapse. Most people find it hard picking themselves up and starting it all over again, most people give up after relapse, believing in a wrong ideology that their addictions are for life. Build confidence and self respect in the addict to enact maturity so as to be able to handle relapses as the case may be. Make sure you do not castigate him/her for relapsing, also, do not appraise relapse, show your concern and disapproval of relapse and be mindful of the words you use at this stage but urge him/her on with more of encouragements. Also, watch the mood of your child during this relapse;
- Is he/she broken?
- Is he/she feeling bad?
- What are the things he/she says concerning relapsing?
- Are there feelings of remorse for relapsing?
- Is relapsing looking normal to the addict?
- Did he/she open up on relapse?
Your child’s feelings about relapse will determine his/her interest in the whole recovery process, a feeling of remorse, brokenness, anger and especially opening up to a parent during relapse is indicative of his/her interest in getting free. It also shows that a level of confidence and trust had been built in the parent and these will depend on how you’ve been dealing with him/her. Opening up to you means your efforts are appreciated; the remorseful feeling is an indication that he is angry about hurting you and truncating your effort, for the parent, this is a positive feedback and this is the time to start getting happy. Every addiction counselor works with feelings from relapse, if your child is not exhibiting any of these feelings, then probably you’re enforcing the recovery and not making him understand and key into it personally without a push. Remember, “You can force a horse to the stream but cannot force it to drink water”.
Remorse in relapse is a sign that he had really decided to change for good, these are positive checkers, against which you should know it is forceful. Don’t act bizarre upon noticing relapse, it can be very heart breaking but it should rather make you happy because it means you’re yielding results, be supportive, caution and show your disapproval not disappointment, reassure rather and explain it is not the end and make sure you work it out together again, offer a shoulder to lean on because the best tool to recovering from addiction is love, make the addict feel loved and do not just merely say it, emphasize that you’re in it together and really work as a team.
Conclusively, do not forget to point out triggers. Triggers are things that cause your child to indulge in the act again. Identifying triggers will help in overcoming addiction a lot, remember there may be multiple relapses during each process because these will help you uncover hidden triggers that was even unknown to the addict but came up with time.
Most addictions changes triggers when one had been identified and dealt with just like a virus changes strain to fit into a new environment, for example, it is possible that a child masturbates because of pornography, if the child decides to stop using phones and gadgets, watching movies in the room may then become another trigger in a bid for the brain to cater for satisfaction and pleasure, if this too is dealt with, then loneliness can breed thoughts that would trigger it, meanwhile initially, the only trigger known to even the addict was watching pornography, but there are some triggers unknown at the onset but arises by virtue of circumstances and time, these are some of the advantages of relapse.
This gets bad when a relapse is due to same trigger from a previous one, that means there had not been a forward acceleration and the previous trigger had not really been dealt with, an indication of no growth, make sure therefore that triggers are not repeated even in multiple relapses.
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