How Can You Help Your Kids Heal After You Recover from Addiction?

The impact of addiction can be contagious. While the ramifications may seem the most obvious for the person who is actively abusing substances, the behavior surrounding addiction can greatly affect others. Children often observe and sometimes mimic the behavior of their parents even if the behavior is negative. While in recovery, many people who have struggled with addiction are at a loss when it comes to helping their children recover as well.

How To Help Your Kids After Recovery

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is often a long process that takes on-going work. By reaching out for help, it can feel as if life is starting over for the better. While this may be scary for the recovering addict, their children may also need help understanding how to move forward.

“Good” Parenting Practices

1.) Modeling responsible behavior. The words “good” and “bad” are often ingrained in somebody who is recovering from substance abuse. When there is a loss of control and life seems unmanageable, it’s easy to become critical of yourself or others. Instead of trying to be a “good” parent, using more specific language can help.

Responsible behavior does not solely exist for a parent, but for all people. Including children. Teaching children how to take on responsibilities that match their capabilities can create self esteem and confidence. Responsible behavior does not have to mean taking on huge projects. Often modeling responsible behavior means starting small.

By creating a structured household where the rules are known and expected, children can have stability. Depending on how old the children are, these responsibilities can look different. A small child may be responsible for making his/her bed. A teenager may be responsible for driving to the store for groceries once a week. Once there is stability in the house, trust can be earned.

2.) Set boundaries. Addiction causes chaos for most households. When obtaining and using drugs or alcohol becomes the number one priority, boundaries can blur together. Children of parents who are in recovery may have experienced a care-taking role that does not fit into the appropriate boundaries between children and parents. New boundaries are important to map out when moving forward.

Learning how to say “no” is a skill. There are many reasons why children (and adults) may not want to say “no” to someone. They can feel guilt or shame or even fear. Since many children are taught to follow orders from their parents, they may not have felt free to say “no” to certain tasks that addiction can create. Allowing privacy, the ability to say “no” to certain situations or tasks and keeping a private life that does not include your children, healthy boundaries can be created.

3.) Follow through. Many people in recovery may not feel like they are able to complete something they start. They may feel inadequate or have a low self esteem. When there is an extended period of time where control is lost, reclaiming that control can seem monumental.

In order to model responsible behavior and earn the trust of your children, following through is incredibly important. This can mean showing up at a soccer game or dance recital or it can mean taking them to the movies when you promised them you would. Following through also means that recovery must come first. By following through on recovery, you are prohibiting substance abuse from becoming your number one priority.

Talk To Your Children

While it may not be appropriate to share personal experiences with substance abuse, talking to your children about recovery is important.

Your children may have questions about past behavior or what the future will look like. By addressing these questions head on, you can lead the way for a new life. Older children that may not ask direct questions about recovery may be hurt or carrying resentment. This is completely natural.

By having open communication, you can allow a non-judgemental atmosphere for your children to ask questions. Since substance abuse usually runs in families, learning about the process of recovery and the dangers of substance abuse may be beneficial in the long run.

If you are not used to having an open dialogue with your children or did not grow up in a household that freely expressed emotion, try setting aside a specific time to talk like after dinner or one day out of the week. By taking the lead and starting these conversations, you can become the kind of parent who is ready and willing to listen.


Substance abuse is a complex health issue that affects many people. While going through the various recovery stages, family is likely to experience a shift in emotion and responsibility. To better understand how to navigate these changes, we can help. Call us at: 833-610-1174.

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