What to Know About Being a Parent in Rehab
Deciding to get help for substance abuse is hard enough, but when you factor kids into the equation, the choice seems exponentially harder. Being a parent in rehab is one of the reasons many people struggling with addiction think long and hard about seeking help. This is especially true for those in desperate need of inpatient treatment. Leaving your children behind — even for a short while — is one of the most complex decisions a parent can make, no matter how beneficial it is for them and their family.
Yet seeking help for substance use disorders might be the best decision you could ever make for your children. The most crucial aspects of deciding to seek addiction treatment when you have children are pre-planning and communication.
Family healing is more possible when you plan for your kids, talk to them about what to expect and commit yourself to working the program to the best of your ability. Moreover, the family sessions you’ll attend in rehab will help your kids understand what’s happening and why, which will go a long way toward reinforcing your decision and your overall bond.
Before You Go to Addiction Treatment: Decisions to Make Regarding Your Kids
If you’ve opted for an inpatient rehab program, there are a few things that you need to consider regarding the care of your kids. Questions you may encounter from your kids include:
- Who’ll be the full-time caregiver for your kids while you’re in treatment?
- Where will they live while you’re in treatment?
- Will their school schedule or extracurricular activities be impacted in any way?
- Is the person you’ve appointed to care for your kids familiar with them and their likes/dislikes?
- Will they have the legal capacity to make decisions about the care of your children in your absence?
Essentially, the person you choose to care for your kids while in rehab should be one of the most trustworthy people in your life. Even the most lenient addiction treatment programs will require your full attention while immersed in healing. This means you likely won’t have much time to deal with any issues relating to your family.
Whoever you appoint to care for your children must be able to handle their immediate needs and make decisions on their behalf while you’re recovering. Typically, family members are best because your children are already familiar with them. If you have older kids, you might include them in the conversation, as they may react better if they have input on the individual you choose to care for them while you seek help for your drug or alcohol addiction.
Consider Therapy for Your Children in the Interim
Your kids will likely participate in family counseling sessions through the treatment program you’re attending while in treatment. In fact, this is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to choose a program that’s family-friendly.
However, they may have a lot of negative feelings about you spending time away from them while you recover from drug or alcohol abuse. Interim therapy can go a long way toward helping them resolve those feelings before they manifest in negative behaviors. Therapy gives them a safe space to explore all their feelings independent of the rest of the family.
Individual therapy for your kids can also reinforce some of the concepts covered in family treatment at rehab. Depending on their age, your kids may need extra time and space to process what’s happening and why. They can work through these issues with their therapist before, during and after any family therapy sessions they participate in at rehab.
Check the Rehab’s Visitation Policy
Some rehab centers don’t allow visitors, so find out what the policy is in advance so you and your kids know what to expect. If seeing your children at some point during treatment is essential to you, it’s well worth inquiring about choosing the ideal program for your needs. This is especially pertinent if you’re at drug abuse rehab during major holidays or celebrations.
Talk to Your Children About Your Decision to Seek Help
When you seek help for your addiction, it’s critical to communicate with your children about that choice. Disappearing without warning will cause much more harm than you realize, so you at least need to have a conversation about what’s happening and why. Children typically already know something’s wrong, and you don’t want them to blame themselves because you’re leaving to seek treatment.
You don’t have to go into more detail than you’re comfortable sharing. Still, if you explain at least that addiction is like other diseases that require medical intervention, they might be able to make better sense of your temporary absence. You can explain that in light of professional medical advice, you need help from experts to get better.
Consider the timing as well. Discuss in a quiet, calm environment, and leave plenty of time for questions. Whatever you do, don’t discuss the issue when you’re rushed or have little time to work out how they feel about this transition.
Adjust Your Language by Age
The way you discuss going to a treatment facility with young children will be a much different experience than with older children. For very young children, simpler messaging is better: e.g., you’re sick and need to go away for a little while to get better, but you’ll come back.
Older children may understand more, but you should still restrict what you say about seeking treatment to what they need to know. You don’t want to burden them with too many details. Either way, express to them positivity about the future and your hopes for how your treatment will favorably affect the entire family.
Life as a Parent After Rehab
Adjusting to life as a parent following rehab comes with its own set of pitfalls and challenges. After all, returning home after rehab doesn’t mean the end of your recovery journey. It’s an ongoing process that requires a renewed commitment from you each and every day. It will positively impact your child’s life for them to see you putting in the necessary work to maintain your sobriety and help reinforce the idea that you’re dedicated to getting healthy and staying on an upbeat track for your family.
During this time, ongoing family therapy is critical to underscore ideas of sobriety and help your family work through any negative feelings left over from the days of your substance use disorder. Support group meetings are great resources to enhance positive family dynamics, especially for older children who might benefit from talking to other kids about their shared experiences.
Remember to Make Time for Fun
Rehab and recovery are serious times for you and your family. Reaching and maintaining sobriety is one of the hardest things many parents will ever do, and their children often feel the impact of that stress. As such, when you get back from rehab, make time for positive, healthy activities you can enjoy as a family. This is an excellent way to start making new memories that may help mitigate some of the challenges experienced while you were in active substance abuse.
Dedicate Yourself to Your Sobriety and Your Family
One of the best ways to navigate the challenges of being a parent in rehab and working through the rigors of sobriety is to give yourself over to the process entirely. You’ll learn this in recovery, but sobriety is a lifelong endeavor that requires you to make daily choices to maintain. While addiction can be traumatic for children, part of what helps them overcome the trauma is seeing you re-dedicate yourself to your sobriety daily. Combined with plenty of communication, patience and positive parenting principles, your addiction and need for treatment don’t have to derail their lives.
The truth is that getting well for your kids is one of the best things you can ever do for them. Even if they don’t understand why you have to leave at the time, they’ll be better for your decision. Moreover, your family will have access to the resources it needs to heal after dealing with the rigors of addiction. Click here to learn more about how going to rehab can make you a better parent and what you need to get started with addiction treatment today.