How to Use Your Role as a Parent to Support Your Adult Child’s Addiction Treatment

If your child is struggling with addiction, it’s never too late to use your connection with them to help guide them towards recovery. With your support and intervention, you can help treat their addiction by resolving the past, using your role as a parent and love for your child as a means of helping you both move together towards the future.

How you rear your child often creates long-lasting effects which ripple from the past into the present moment, with everything from their personality, behaviors, and emotional development linked back to you in some way. Too often, parents ruminate on how their past affects their child’s present without considering how such experiences might be held up as important lessons with which to positively shape their child’s personal development.

“This is where parents come into focus,” says psychologist Carl Pickhardt, author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence. “By commission and omission, how did they contribute to the young person’s growth? The answer is both positively and negatively, because no matter how well intended, the best that parents ever provide is a mix of strength and frailty, wisdom and stupidity, good choices and bad.”

If your adult child is suffering from addiction, it’s especially important for you to remember that, just as childhood is a crucial moment for human development, so too is your child’s journey into adulthood and beyond. Using your parental influence positively can help you get your child into a treatment program that effectively addresses their struggle with addiction and get them started on a recovery plan that harnesses the benefits of your role and the lifelong connection that you’ve built with them.

Treating Addiction by Resolving the Past


“Addicts and alcoholics are best treated by helping them to develop a capacity for healthy relationships,” wrote psychologist Philip Flores in his 2006 study on attachment and its role in addiction treatment.

Maybe you were strict on your child because you didn’t want them to make the same mistakes that you did when you were younger. Or you didn’t focus as much attention on them because you were busy working as much as you could to make sure that you could afford to provide for them.

While such circumstances certainly played a role in who your child is today, it’s also important to remember that the present is setting the stage for the future. As a parent, you still have the potential to act today in order to exert a positive influence on your child’s tomorrow.

What we know about family therapy (FT) and its ability to foster recovery in people living with addiction is not conclusive, but it is promising. Although more research is needed on how FT can curb adolescent substance use problems as opposed to adult drug use, so far data suggests that in adults struggling with addiction, FT tends to decrease drug use and behavioral problems.

This supports the notion that family members are important figures in the treatment process, regardless of age. Whether your child is still young or all grown up, your positivity and support is key to their recovery.

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Moving Together Towards the Future


No matter what approach you decide to take when addressing your child’s addiction, there is no “best” method—the most important thing is that the connection between you and your child is harnessed in a way that is optimal for getting your child into treatment. Approaching anyone to get help for their addiction is a tough process, and when you’re a parent approaching your child, emotions will likely be running high on both sides.

Before approaching them, consider hiring an intervention specialist to help ensure sure that your chances of success are as high as possible. A specialist will help you plan ahead of time—by, for instance, writing down your thoughts to express your love and concern as clearly as possible, deciding on who should be present to minimize conflict, and deciding on the best moment to confront them—in order to better prepare you for what can often be a difficult conversation.

Ideally, you should approach your child at a time when they are comfortable and better equipped to cope with the situation and listen to what you have to say without walking away. You should both be relatively calm, without external stressors (such as an appointment you’re rushing to get to or a noisy, disquieting environment) to distract or detract from your conversation.

When you do decide to talk to your child about their addiction and the available treatment options, it’s important do so in a way that is compassionate and positive. Even if denial and anger is their first response, it’s up to you to help them see through these emotions and help them realize that they stem from their addiction. Remind them, gently, that your goal is to help them, and that your actions are in their best interests and rooted in the love you have for them.

  • Refrain from judgment. Don’t judge your child harshly for their choices—and don’t judge yourself for your own past actions. Nobody is perfect—we all have our flaws, and we all make mistakes. What matters the most is that we accept them and work towards moving past them and on to better things.
  • Focus on the future. When you raise the topic of treatment, don’t focus on things that have happened in the past or the way that they’re living in the present—it’s simply not constructive, and it may trigger a strong negative reaction. Focus instead on the potential that the future holds for the both of you, and how treatment is a way to realize this potential. You’ll have plenty of time to dig deep into the roots of addiction during treatment, so use your approach as a chance to focus on the positivity that lies ahead.
  • Listen to them. If your child gets angry and emotional when confronted, don’t take it personally. Even if they blame you or lash out, stay calm and listen to what they have to say. Addiction can be an isolating experience. As a parent, you more than anyone can comfort them by lending them an empathetic ear.

Just as parenting can influence the development of addiction, it can also influence the success of recovery. By taking part in a residential treatment program with your child, you can learn about the underlying cause of their addiction along with them, the role that you play in it, and how you can make a positive contribution to the process. The past is always there as a reminder of what we’ve done, but it should never be dwelled on—it should be used to help us learn from our mistakes and change our current relationships for the better.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive addiction rehabilitation for people struggling with a number of addictions. Contact us today to learn how you can join your child on their journey to recovery and use your role as a parent to foster healing.