I have often been asked the question by parents as to what to say to kids as they struggle to make sense of their life. Parents often feel that they are walking on eggshells. Their kids have made a major detour because of their drug and alcohol use. They may be struggling to get their life back on track, or simply still in the midst of their drug use.
Parents so often hope that they will say the golden words that will make a difference.
We’ve been told so often that there is nothing that we can do. We need to detach and let go. There may come a time when that is all that a person can do. Other times as well, but especially in the initial stages, parents have a big influence on their child and can as easily support their child’s long-term recovery as unravel it just with their words and actions, or lack of.
Studies have shown that parents do have an influence and can make a difference.
Letting our kids know when they are struggling with substances, that we are still there for them and will be waiting for them on the other side can give them the inner strength that they need to start their life anew.
Here are some ideas on things that you can say when your child is struggling with drugs or alcohol.
1. “I love you.”
While we can change these three little words up in a variety of ways, the basic “I love you” gets the message across at this critical time with no confusion.
I use every opportunity these days to add those three simple words at the end of every phone conversation and every goodbye. I don’t think any of us, no matter what our age or our situation, can hear it enough. When you going through a rough patch, you need to hear “I love you” more than ever.
2. “I understand.”
While we may not have expected our kids to take the path of drug and alcohol misuse, understanding can go a long way in helping them to know that you are there for them. You have taken the time to do the work to have a deeper understanding about why they felt they needed to relieve their pain and numb their emotions. By understanding you are a source of help and guidance and your child will know that ultimately, you are there for them.
3. “How can I help?”
Offering to help is the greatest gift you can give your child. Giving out money that is spent on drugs or alcohol is never the answer, but help can come in a variety of other forms, and can make a difference when your child is struggling.
Think of ways that you can help that will give your child the chance to start again. You may offer to pay for counseling, in-house treatment or for the first couple of months of a sober living home. If that is not possible, look for less costly treatment options. While your child may not decide to take you up on your offer of help immediately, they will know that help is available for them when they are ready.
4. ”I respect you.”
As your child struggles to make better choices, they need your love and respect. Everyone knows that the choices that they made were not good ones. You can, however respect the hard work that they have chosen to do to change their lives. It isn’t easy to be sober or to seek a better way when the temptation to return to old habits is always lingering in the wings.
Each morning, your child makes a new decision about what path he will take that day. It gets easier down the road, but it is a challenge for someone just starting out. Kids that never made the decision to let drugs or alcohol run their life deserve our respect. Overcoming a substance use problem deserves our respect as well and telling our kids, we respect them, helps them respect themselves once again.
5. “I will support your positive change.”
Give your child the message that you will support their long-term recovery or positive change. This is a message that is helpful for them, but also helpful for parents as you think through each action you take to decide if you are being helpful or enabling
Acknowledging positive change is a good thing. While we would like to think this is something that is already ingrained in our kids, the bottom line is that they’ve taken a detour in life and we need to do what we can to support their safe return. It takes work and effort to change the negative cycle and start down a healthier path. Sending a clear message of what you will and will not support will make a difference for their future.
6. “We can get through this together.”
Letting your child know that this is a team effort helps. I am divorced from my child’s father, but we came together to help each other come up with solutions for the problem when my daughter was ready to make a change in her life. We both loved our daughter dearly and wanted only the best for her. Working together with your child and with those immediately affected, so that you are all moving in the same direction, can make a difference. Whether you are married or divorced, putting aside differences and collaborating as a family unit helps to move things forward to a better place.
7. “Don’t forget, you were meant to shine.”
As Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I like the idea of reminding our kids that there is a greater purpose for their lives that is waiting for them. Fear is often what is holding them back, but when they peel back the layers, they too can find their greatness and shine. We all need to know that while we may stumble and fall, we can always get up and go on to be our best selves.
Credit: This has been written by Cathy Taughinbaugh. Cathy is a “Certified Parent Coach”, a “Certified Life Coach”, and she is also a “Certified Life and Recovery Coach”. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of the Pacific and holds a California Teaching Credential. She is based in Contra Costa County in California and works with parents across America. She has been working with parents since 2010. She also works with the Parent Support Network for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and has been part of their Parent Support Coaching program since August, 2013. Through that program, she has been trained in CRAFT, which stands for Community Reinforcement and Family Training and has found it to be a powerful program that provides strategies and tools for families. You can find Cathy by visiting her website: http://cathytaughinbaugh.com/
You may also like: From Drug Addict To Yoga Instructor