By Heather Rolland, LCSW Can you imagine applying to become a parent as if it…
Don’t Let Children Moving Back Home Derail Your Recovery
After finishing college or graduate school, many young adults find themselves unable to get a job in their field of expertise. Stuck with low-paying internships or waiting tables while they figure out their next move, it is common for these young adults to move back home to save on rent. A clash of cultures is inevitable, but what happens when you’re in recovery and your adult child is actively using? Worse yet, what if you can see the tell-tale signs of addiction in your own home, in your own child?
When Your Child Is an Adult
When your child was a teenager, you had a lot more options at the ready: you could set limits, insist upon treatment, and withhold assistance in all sorts of forms. As an adult, your hands are tied in more ways than ever: your child may have his or her own vehicle, income and friends who will provide rides or other help if you do set limits. And, of course, if it’s alcohol that seems to be the problem, drinking is legal.
What can you do to protect your recovery and still be a supportive parent? After all, the main reason your child is living at home with you is likely financial—if he or she could be more independent, he or she probably would. Understanding a young adult’s struggle to get started on a meaningful life and trying to be helpful is a noble and important part of parenting—but it shouldn’t cost you your recovery. Here are some suggestions for navigating these complicated waters.
- Have house rules or limits. You get to create rules for the household; that’s one perk of paying the mortgage or rent. If you don’t allow alcohol in the home, then that’s the rule. Your child managed to live under all sorts of rules while at college; he or she will just have to deal with a few more rules while living with you.
- Don’t apologize for your rules. You don’t need to get into a big discussion about the rules and you don’t owe your kid an apology or explanation. You don’t need to be harsh or terse about this, but don’t get caught discussing it to death. Some young adults, particularly intelligent and motivated ones, are masters at debate. Engaging in the discussion can lead to getting trapped in an annoying conversation, and then you may find yourself tempted to give in just to end the arguing.
- Acknowledge that you can’t control or change your adult children. Your son or daughter has a right to make his or her own mistakes or craft his or her own triumphs. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything at all, but understanding just what your limits are in dealing with another adult is important.
- Be honest about how you feel. Don’t nag or complain, but do express yourself. If you are concerned that your child is showing signs of a problem with alcohol or drugs, tell him or her. If you are not especially concerned about addiction, but are simply uncomfortable by the use of alcohol in your home, say so. Be honest and clear about how you feel and what you need. This type of communication is healthy and positive, although it might feel stressful and difficult.
- If the situation escalates to the point where your needs and wishes are not being respected, revisit the limits you set. Think about how you would handle the situation if the person renting that extra bedroom were not a family member. I’m not suggesting that you treat your child like a stranger, but I am suggesting that you think about how much leeway you’ve extended and then thoughtfully figure out how much to reel in.
- Don’t let your recovery program get knocked off course by someone else’s behavior. Stay focused on all the positive things you do to move forward as a healthy, happy, sober person. Go to your meetings, go to the gym, go to church, go hiking … do all of the things you need to do to stay focused and on track.
- Acknowledge all you’re feeling with your support team—your partner, therapist, sponsor, clergy—whoever it is that helps you stay sober. Talk about your feelings. It is normal to feel angry, guilty, sad, frightened and many other things when faced with a threat to all you worked so hard to achieve.
- Try to separate the behaviors from the person. Your child may do things that inconvenience you, or worse—he or she may do things that threaten your recovery. Coming from your own child, this can feel devastating. Try to see your child as a whole person, full of good and not-so-good qualities, and just doing his or her best with the tools at hand. Try not to take anything he or she does personally. Chances are good his or her behavior isn’t about you.