If you are a parent who has been in the vicious cycle of addiction, your actions may have likely caused profound distress on your children. They may be hurt, as during this dark time in your life you appeared deceitful, disinterested and self-absorbed—even when you know you deeply cared for them. Perhaps your addiction may have spurred them to act out their angst through failing grades, moodiness or addictive behaviors. Now that you’re in recovery, however, you want them to let you back into their hearts and give you a chance to be a responsible parent again. This will take time and patience on your part.
As you work on rebuilding your relationships during this new phase in your life, here are 6 steps you can take to help regain the love and respect you desire from your children.
The first and biggest step you must take is saying sorry for the damage you’ve done during your addiction. Start by gathering your family together at one table and admitting to your wrongdoing. Then, get your children to be frank and spell out what they hope to get from your recovery program. As difficult as this process may be, it will help everyone release any bottled up feelings they may have and move forward.
Remember that your children’s forgiveness may take a while, so expect a period of awkwardness, hostility and suspicion from them. However, their trust will likely increase as days pass if you show that you are truly learning from your mistakes. Try to have more sit-down meetings with them by scheduling one every few months, if possible.
2. Walk the talk.
Make a realistic recovery plan and work it. If you’re giving up addiction altogether, go to your treatment appointments or meetings unwaveringly, ignore people and places linked to your substance use and develop better habits for coping with stress. Be honest and only say what you’ll actually do—this is the sole path to becoming a credible person. As you consistently follow your recovery plans and do as you promise, you will begin to earn respect.
Try to find a job and hang in there. Your children may have suffered financially during your substance addiction, so you’ll need to show them you’re in control and able to protect and care for them. Don’t let them see that you need to be coerced or reminded by a partner or another person to do what you need to do as they might think you’re not the one driving your recovery and may not stick with the plan in the long-term. You can also talk to your therapist and support group on ways you can build trust.
3. Be accountable.
You can’t afford to be secretive about your recovery. Show your children that you’re not just taking them for a ride but provide evidence of your determination to succeed. Let them know what your short-term goals are and let them see the everyday progress you’re making towards them. You won’t always succeed but your loved ones need to know that you are genuinely picking yourself up and resuming where you left off. However, be wary of seeking too much approval as you’ll appear desperate and insincere. Remember that your goal isn’t to please anyone but to truly shift the direction of your life. Once your children see consistent and honest change, their feelings of security will also increase.
4. Don’t become an emotional burden.
If you wound up breaking your commitment and your children have difficulty accepting your account of what really happened, don’t act self-righteous or use emotional blackmail. Both are empty, manipulative and tiring. They are relics from your old self and won’t help you build trust because your children will see them for what they are—an attempt to cover deception. Once again, your future with them will seem hopeless. Instead, be truthful. Admit you made a mistake, learn your lesson and continue with your program. Remember, you must make a conscious effort to stop being who you were during your addiction so you don’t keep being defined in those terms.
5. Be a concerned parent.
Make an effort to be actively involved in your children’s lives. Get them to talk about things that bother them. Listen to them intently without being critical. As they see that you genuinely care and respect their free will, it can help gradually make their anguish fade. In younger children, praise for good school work or encouragement for poor work helps show them you are interested. It may take months to reestablish your role in your children’s lives, but you have to be patient and proceed slowly. You can get far with gaining your children’s trust by parenting through discussions, as you won’t seem austere. After all, you’re still working to regain their full respect. Once you finally start to have more meaningful talks, you’ll know that things are moving along.
6. Be a role model again.
Children tend to take their cue from their parents. If you develop healthy coping skills, they’ll likely start to emulate you, which isn’t a bad thing. Through your recovery experience, they can learn that it’s sometimes okay to fail as long as you remember to pick yourself back up and try again. Perhaps you can try taking up a sport or a hobby that will help build you up. If there’s anything you can do that will show your children your strength and resilience, do just that. Allow your child to soak in any beneficial life lessons you’ve learned in your recovery.
Your children’s trust may be difficult to regain, but knowing that those you love and care for the most believe in you can make your new life in sobriety that much sweeter. If you or someone you know is seeking recovery from substance addiction, visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to get started today.