So you've done it! You've put in the hard work and made the courageous decision to seek treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). This is the best decision that you can make, not only for yourself but for your family. Now that you're in recovery, you can begin to become the best parent possible for your children – the parent that they truly deserve.
Returning to parenting in recovery can seem like a delicate and, at times, daunting process. This can especially be the case if your children have been in the care of someone else while you've been away or in treatment. Whether or not they are at an age where they can really understand what you've been through or are working on can also be a factor. But no matter what, don't give up. Healthy parenting in recovery is possible and very worthwhile.
Asking for Forgiveness While Parenting in Recovery
A big aspect of the recovery journey is not only asking for forgiveness from those you may have hurt while in active use but striving to earn their forgiveness. Sometimes asking for forgiveness from other adults is a lot easier than asking for forgiveness from your own children.
You may think to yourself: My kids are too young to understand what forgiveness is. Maybe they weren't even really affected by my substance misuse. However, you'd be surprised. Children are aware and notice a lot more than you would think. They could have heard or watched things that you said or did while engaging in substance misuse that you didn't realize.
It can certainly be painful to admit that your actions could have directly or indirectly impacted your children in unhealthy ways. However, this is an important part of the recovery journey.
When asking your children for forgiveness while in recovery, be as honest as possible while using language appropriate for their age and understanding. Make it clear to them that you are sorry for ever hurting their feelings, betraying them, or making them feel as if they are a second priority.
The Importance of Open Communication
Open communication is really important in recovery because it can help ensure that you and your children are on the same page. Part of this involves allowing them to ask you questions about your recovery journey and even things that may have happened in the past. You don't have to get into the nitty, gritty details, especially when dealing with a small child, but you can still try to answer their questions to the best of your ability.
One thing that is important to note is that children can tell when adults are lying, even if they don't seem like it. Lying to them or watering down the truth can only cause further distrust, so it's important that you try to be as honest as possible with them.
Building Back Trust While Parenting in Recovery
Rebuilding trust with your children while in recovery takes time and consistency. You have to show them that you are going to be there for them no matter what. Part of this involves following through with what you tell them you'll do and always keeping your word as much as is reasonably possible. It also involves making a conscious effort to ensure they know that they are your top priority.
The Value of Making New Memories
While you can't erase things that may have happened in the past, you can focus on making new, positive memories in the future. This is a great way to start restrengthening the bond you have with your children and getting them to trust you again.
You don't have to make expensive or elaborate plans to make a difference. Just spending quality time with them doing something they enjoy can make all the difference. The important thing is to make sure that whatever your new memories are, they focus on activities that will actually be fun for the child, even if it's not necessarily something that you put at the top of your list as enjoyable.
For example, maybe visiting a historic museum sounds like a fun Saturday to you. But would it be fun for a younger child? Probably not. On the flip side, maybe an evening playing video games with your teenager would mean a lot to them, even if it doesn't seem like an ideal time to you. Whatever it may be, make sure that you're putting your child first.
Remember to Practice Self-Care
At the end of the day, it is also very important that you are taking care of yourself as well. You can't be the best possible parent you can be if you're not fitting in self-care too. Remember to take care of not only your physical health but your mental health as well.
Making the decision to seek treatment for substance use disorder is incredibly courageous. It is the best decision not only for yourself but for your children as well. It can take time and patience to rebuild trust while parenting in recovery, but it is possible and well worth it. Some things to remember are to ask for forgiveness and actually mean it. You also want to keep open and honest conversations with your children, follow through with your words, and focus on making new happy memories. Don't forget to take care of your mental and physical health as well. If you're struggling with substance misuse, The Ho Tai Way can help. Call us at (714) 581-3974 today.