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5 Tips for Approaching a Parent About Their Addiction

It’s no secret that all children, even adult children, rely upon their parents for their basic needs and much of their direction and emotional support in life.  Where a child’s parents are sane, healthy and happy, this is often a mutually beneficial relationship–though there can obviously still be periods of difficulty and challenge.  Where a child’s parents are struggling with substantial health issues, such as drug addiction, the relationship can be strained and unpleasant.  Fortunately, many children are very well aware of what is occurring in their environment and are therefore able to recognize a parent who is struggling with drug addiction.  Unfortunately, few children know how to approach their parents about their addiction problems–which means that these problems can continue to get worse and cause extensive damages.

Approaching a Parent About Their Addiction

When a parent is struggling with drug addiction, one of the many individuals who is adversely affected by this problem is their child.  Mood swings and violent behavior are not unheard of among drug addicts, and young children are especially vulnerable to sudden emotional or physical attacks.  It’s not unusual for the child to understand that something is very wrong and they aren’t actually safe with their drug-addicted parent.  Unfortunately, many children, while desiring for their parents to get the help they need, are also scared of being separated from their parents and so tend to do nothing, sometimes with tragic results.  It may be true that one’s parents are one’s parents, but while they are struggling with drug addiction they are unable to control their own decisions and actions and are therefore quite dangerous to be around.  It is therefore imperative that children who are physically harmed by parents who are under the influence of drug substances seek help.  It’s true that harming children comes with heavy legal penalties that no one will be glad to experience, but the important point is that the individual will be prevented from inflicting further harm and will receive the help they need in order to put an end to their addiction problems.

Where a parent is struggling with drug addiction but is not inflicting physical harm on others, one can take action to assist them in getting the help they desperately need.  After all, if your parent was ill with a flu, you would want to help them get to the doctor.  Addiction should be no different, even though it is admittedly a bit more complex a problem to address and resolve.  The key is in how one approaches their parent so the parent recognizes concern and a deep desire to help–without threat or judgment.  Following are five tips for how to approach your parent about their addiction problem:

1. Sit down and talk openly and honestly with them about their addiction problems while they are sober.  An honest, open, gentle but persistent conversation can open the door to recovery, because it may be that they aren’t even aware that their addiction problems were recognized by anyone else.  However, there is a chance that they will refuse to admit they have a problem or refuse to talk about it, which is why one must remain gently persistent.

2. Listen without judgment.  Addiction is not a condition brought on by an individual who deliberately chooses it.  Many individuals who have turned a critical eye to other addicts’ problems with drug substances have then fallen into the trap of addiction themselves and consequently struggled to understand their problems with addiction.  It is important to listen to whatever a parent may say about their drug problems and steer clear of making any sort of judgment.

3. Ask questions.  Even when an individual willingly agrees to enroll in a rehabilitation treatment program, they rarely meet with lasting success unless they have themselves decided that drug use is harming their life and they need to put an end to it.  There are questions an individual can ask that can help a parent to recognize the link between their drug use and their life problems and then reach out for help.  Some of these questions are: When did you first start using? How much do you use each day? Where do you get drugs from?  How do you feel when you use drugs? How do you feel when you don’t use drugs?  Would you like to never have to use drugs again?

4. Describe the real, damaging effects of drug use.  It is not unusual for drug addicts to suffer from poor self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence because of their inability to deal with and resolve their own drug problems.  This means that they are usually unwilling to hear what others “think” about their drug problems.  However, by giving them real examples of the damaging effects caused by drug use, one can help to open a parent’s eyes to how their actions are affecting others.  For example, one may point out that there was insufficient or no food in the house for a week, which meant children were asking for food from friends and neighbors.

5. Speak to the other parent, if possible.  If one parent is sober while the other is not, it is important to find out from the sober parent why they haven’t taken action to resolve their partner’s drug problem.  It’s possible that they didn’t know anyone else knew about the problem, or that they have attempted to take action without achieving lasting results.  Either way, by becoming a team together with the sober parent, one may be able to bring about desired change.

There is no arguing that it is difficult and unpleasant to deal with a parent’s drug addiction problems, but it is far worse to let these problems continue to grow and affect others than it is to step up and try to affect a change.

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