As your kids grow they may forget what you said, but won’t forget how you made them feel. ~ Kevin Heath.
At times in my past, I have found myself wondering, “If I had said something different, maybe my kids would not have struggled with drugs or alcohol.”
I have to remind myself that addiction doesn’t discriminate. Some kids were given everything they needed and more. They still went on to have a drug or alcohol problem.
Nevertheless, our words can build self-esteem and empower kids at any point in their life.
Parents have often asked me the question as to what to say to kids as they struggle to make sense of their life. Parents often feel that they are walking on eggshells. Their children have experienced a significant detour because of their drug and alcohol use. They may be struggling to get their life back on track, or they could be still in the midst of their use.
Parents so often hope they will say the golden words that will motivate their child to change when they are struggling.
Many parents hear there is nothing you can do to help your child. You need to detach and let go.
Studies have shown, however, that parents do have an influence. You can make a difference.
Let your child know when they are struggling with substances, that you are still there for them. You will be waiting for them when they are ready to cross the bridge to recovery. Your support can give them the inner strength that they need to start their life anew.
Here are some helpful things you can say when your child is struggling with drugs or alcohol. These seven messages would be wonderful for any child to hear.
1. “I love you.”
We can change these three little words up in a variety of ways. Anyway, you say it, the basic “I love you” gets the message across at this critical time with no confusion.
I use every opportunity these days to add those three simple words at the end of every phone conversation and every goodbye. No matter what our age or our situation, we can never hear it enough. When you’re going through a rough patch, you need to hear “I love you” more than ever.
2. “I understand.”
While we may not have expected our kids to take the path of drug and alcohol misuse, understanding of why substance use made sense for them can go a long way. You have taken the time to do the work to have a deeper understanding of why they felt they needed to relieve their pain and numb their emotions.
By taking the time to understand, you become a source of help and guidance. Your child will know that ultimately, you will be a support for them.
3. “How can I help?”
Offering to help is the greatest gift you can give your child. One caution is not to give money that your child could use for drugs or alcohol. Help can come in a variety of other forms. It is a question that gives your child the opportunity to consider what could help him change.
Think of ways that you can help that will give your child the chance to start again. You may offer to pay for counseling, in-house treatment or for the first couple of months of a sober living home. If that is not possible, look for less costly treatment options. While your child may not decide to take you up on your offer of help immediately, they will know that help is available for them when they are ready.
4. ”I respect you.”
As your child struggles to make better choices, they need your love and respect. Everyone knows that the decisions they made were not good ones. You can, however, appreciate the hard work that they have chosen to do to change their lives. It isn’t easy to be sober or to seek a better way when the temptation to return to old habits is always lingering in the wings.
Each morning, your child makes a new decision about what path he will take that day. It gets easier down the road, but it is a challenge for someone just starting out. Kids that make healthy choices deserve our respect. Overcoming a substance use problem also merits our respect. You can help your child appreciate themselves once again.
5. “I will support your positive change.”
Give your child the message that you will support their long-term recovery or positive change is what you will stand behind. Think through each action you take to decide if you are being helpful or enabling
Acknowledging positive change is a good thing. Our kids have taken a detour in life. We need to do what we can to support their safe return by supporting their recovery.
It takes work and effort to change the negative cycle and start down a healthier path. Send a clear message of what you will and will not support going forward.
6. “We can get through this together.”
Let your child know that this is a team effort. I am divorced from my daughter’s father. However, we came together to help each other find solutions when my daughter was ready to make a change in her life. We both loved our daughter dearly. We wanted only the best for her.
Working together with your child and with those immediately affected, so that you are all moving in the same direction, can make a difference. Whether you are married or divorced, putting aside differences and collaborating as a family unit helps to move things forward to a better place.
7. “Don’t forget, you were meant to shine.”
As Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
I like the idea of reminding our kids that there is a greater purpose for their lives that is waiting for them. Fear can be what holds them back. When they peel back the layers, they too can find their greatness and shine. We all need to know that while we may stumble and fall, we can always get up and go on to be our best selves.
What have you said to your child that you found to be helpful?
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