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Five Tips to Heal a Family

When your teen enters treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, your family needs to heal.

Parenting a teenager is demanding enough. A teen in treatment for alcohol and drug abuse adds a whole new set of challenges.  Addiction has altered your family’s life. Things will not be as they were before drugs and alcohol. Your lives will continue to undergo transformation as your teen undergoes treatment. Take time to heal and your family will emerge from addiction stronger and healthier than ever. Parents and other family members can begin to heal with these five tips.

1. Heal Yourself

Go to Individual Counseling

Family counseling is most likely integrated into your teenager’s treatment program. Supplement that with individual counseling to work through your own feelings. Talking with someone will heal it two ways. First, it lets you process negative emotions and cultivate positive ones. Your teenager’s struggle with addiction has probably aroused a wide variety of emotions including anger, guilt, shame, sadness, and confusion. For his or her recovery, you need to keep an open and positive heart. Second, individual counseling gives you a clearer picture of what your roles was in your child’s addiction and what your role will be during your teen’s recovery. While some of these issues will be covered in family therapy, the focus there is your teen. You need someone objective to be there for you; someone who provides dedicated support to you and you alone.

2. Heal Your Family

Improve the Family Dynamic

Whether your family consists of you and your teen or a much larger group of people, there are things you can do to improve how your family relates to one another. This is not about blaming yourself for your teenager’s problems. It is about identifying ways to prevent them from reoccurring in the future. Think about how your family operates on a daily basis. Identify small things you wish you had done differently. It can be as simple as having dinner together four nights of the week or making sure you have one-on-one time with each of your children on a weekly basis. Perhaps the way you have settled conflicts in the past needs to evolve into a different approach. Again, this is not about blame or fault. There is no such thing as a perfect person, never mind a perfect parent. However, continually assessing the family dynamic and changing practices with it makes home life more peaceful. There is always room for improvement.

3. Heal Your Mind

Educate Yourself

Most people misunderstand drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Educating yourself on the effects of mind-altering substances will help you better understand what your teen is going through. While some of this may be included in your teenager’s treatment program, there is no such thing as too much information when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction. You should read about not only your teenager’s drug of choice, but other abused substances. Learn about others’ experiences, from both the perspective of people with a substance abuse problem and the loved ones of those individuals. There is an endless array of books, documentaries, blogs on the internet, and support groups that will teach you about drugs, addiction, treatment, and recovery. Cultivating a better understanding of these elements of addiction will help you support your teenager throughout the treatment and recovery process.

4. Heal Your Relationship

Support and Not Suffocate your Teen.

We worry enough about our children before something goes wrong, and once it does, it is hard to resist the impulse to hover. When your teen enters recovery, you need to be an attentive and supportive parent, not a stressful and suffocating presence in your teen’s life. Hyper-vigilance can undermine recovery just as much as inattentiveness. For example, start once daily check-in with your teen. Address how the recovery is going, including challenges your teen faces and achievements of maintaining recovery. This low-key conversation starts a dialogue between you two. Talking about these things when they are not an immediate issue will make it easier to spot a problem. More frequent check-ins, or ones with suspicious, anxious, or otherwise high key tones is less supportive, which may drive your teen to be less open.

5. Heal Your Heart


Forgive yourself. Forgive your teenager. Forgive anyone you feel led your teen down the road to addiction. Our past by no means determines our future. You cannot change what has already occurred, but you can shape what happens next. While we should not forget the past and the important lessons it has taught us, we should allow forgiveness to loosen the past’s grasp on us. Forgiveness heals and transforms the past into a guiding hand that moves your family to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling future.