Are You Worried About Your Adult Child?
Being a parent is challenging. The challenges start immediately, and they just keep coming as a child turns from infant to toddler to school-aged to adolescent to young adult. Each step along the way brings plenty of joy, of course, and not every challenge is particularly difficult. But every parent has had those moments when they don’t know what to do to help their child in the face of a significant problem.
And those moments don’t necessarily stop when your child reaches adulthood and steps out into the world on their own.
For example, you might wonder how best to help after you discover that your adult child is struggling with alcohol or drugs. You will likely feel a rush of emotions—sadness, fear, disappointment, regret—and those feelings can be so overwhelming that it becomes hard to even think clearly about what you should do next to make it more likely your child will get the help they need.
Here are some things to keep in mind if your adult child suffers from a substance use disorder.
Avoid the Temptation to Moralize
Parents are used to providing their children with a sense of right and wrong. We set rules, correct missteps, and try to help our kids make good decisions.
And those habits often stay with us even when the kids are all grown up. And so when you discover that your adult child is drinking to excess or using drugs, your first instinct might be to frame the issue in terms of right and wrong.
You might be tempted to say that your child should have more willpower or more faith. You might be tempted to say that you are disappointed in or embarrassed by their behavior. You might be tempted to say something like, “We didn’t raise you this way.”
To put it bluntly, none of those things—or any other approach to conversation that is grounded in judgment—is helpful.
That’s because a substance use disorder is a brain disease that can be treated (though not cured). A substance use disorder is not a moral failing, and so you should resist the urge to moralize.
Avoid the Trap of Enabling
It goes without saying that you want to do everything you can to help your child. But when it comes to addressing a substance use disorder, it is important to ensure that your help doesn’t take the form of enabling drug or alcohol use.
Enabling might, for example, mean propping up your adult child financially so that they are protected from the costs of their addiction—which might include job loss and other major financial consequences.
Instead of enabling negative behaviors, you want to find ways to truly help. That might mean helping your adult child find and evaluate treatment programs. It might mean going through insurance paperwork to see what kind of coverage is available for treatment. It might mean driving your child to appointments—especially if they have lost their license for driving under the influence.
Here’s the rule of thumb: Helping means doing things that help your adult child stop using drugs or alcohol. Enabling means doing things that make it easier for them to keep doing what they are doing now.
Avoid the Taunts of Blame Shifting
When a person is in the grips of a substance use disorder, they often want to place the blame on someone else. Adult children who are using drugs or taking alcohol might well tell you to your face that it is your fault things have come to this.
It is almost certainly true you made some mistakes as a parent. Everybody does. But it is probably not fair for your child to claim that you caused their substance use disorder.
Remind yourself that your child is, in fact, an adult. Try not to take the blame shifting personally. Apologize for past mistakes if and when it seems appropriate. And keep encouraging your child to get the help they need.
We Can Help You Help Your Adult Child
At French Creek Recovery Center, we offer exceptional care for those seeking to overcome a substance use disorder. And we understand the many ways in which entire families are impacted by substance abuse. That’s why we offer a family program designed to help you help the member of your family who is struggling.
If someone you love needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Together, we can help your adult child reclaim their sobriety. And when they do, the work of rebuilding your family bonds can continue.