How to Talk About Addiction: As a parent, one of the most painful things you can witness is your child making poor life choices. You nurtured this person from the time they were born, but you probably feel helpless to see them as an adult on a path of self-destruction. Is it your place to say anything about their behaviour? Since they are old enough to make their own decisions, it can be a challenge to know how to handle the situation.
The reality is that even though your child is a legal adult, they still need to learn how to talk about addiction and get advice from their parents. They need to know that you are aware of the situation and there to help when they are ready to make a change. Here are a few things to consider if you are preparing to approach your adult child about their addictive behaviour:
Research Your Options Before the Conversation
Don’t start the conversation until you have a few resources to present as options. The goal is to provide real resources so that your child feels like they can make a decision that matches their needs.
For example, you might have a few drug addiction treatment programs picked out, as well as information about how to pay for these programs. You can’t force an adult child into rehab. But, offering support and answers might be enough to motivate them to take action.
How To Talk About Addiction: Show Compassion
Taking an aggressive stance in the conversation can cause offence and drive your family member away. Instead, approach the conversation with the right compassionately. Keep in mind that your child’s addiction isn’t their fault. Addiction is a disease.
Instead of talking to your child about the moral concerns of their behaviour, discuss how these behaviours are affecting other people. Focus the conversation on your love for them. The goal is to be caring and non-judgmental throughout the conversation.
It is common for the addict to become angry during the conversation. Take a few deep breaths so that you can maintain composure. Lashing back in the conversation will only make the situation worse. Simply remind him or her of your love and your willingness to be there to support when they are ready for help.
How To Talk About Addiction: Don’t Forget to Listen
Remember that you are starting a conversation, which means that it needs to be a two-way interaction. Listen to what they have to say. Sometimes, a listening ear is enough to help the other person see the problem so that they feel motivated to seek help.
Ask questions and listen intently so that you can understand how your child is feeling. Communicate your love and let them know that you are there to support without judgment. Tell them that help is always available when they are ready for it.
Stop Enabling the Behaviour
Parents sometimes fall into the trap of enabling addictive behaviour. If you are enabling your child, it means that you are fixing problems using methods that interfere with responsibility and growth. You shouldn’t be a “helicopter parent,” especially in the adult years of life.
When a child needs help, the parent’s response is often to rush in with unhealthy rescuing. For example, it might seem logical to pay their rent after they lost a job due to intoxication at work. Or, you might invite the child to move home so that they get back on their feet again. There’s nothing wrong with helping someone that you love, as long as you don’t remove every consequence that they face. There are valuable lessons for your child to learn from facing the consequences of these decisions.
It can be hard to know where to draw the line. If you are trapped in a pattern of unhealthy behaviour of rescuing your child, then it could be causing more issues in the future. If that child isn’t willing to talk to an addiction recovery specialist for help, then it might be beneficial for you to seek support in the ways you should handle the situation. A counsellor can help you identify the areas where boundaries need to be set and provide recommendations on the best techniques to use in the conversations with your child.