When adolescents return home from addiction treatment, their recovery is far from over. Although they are no longer in a place where they need 24-hour supervision, your child will still need support in managing their sobriety — after all, recovery is a life-long journey. There will be bumps in the road, but your family will get through the difficult times.
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, it’s important to implement boundaries at home that are similar to the ones your child had in residential treatment. Boundaries will help your child maintain a sense of structure in this new phase of their recovery, as well as guide them into making safe and healthy choices as they reintegrate into their social life.
Boundaries Keep Your Child Safe
Children learn boundaries at a very young age. They may not know what the word means, but they understand that they must follow directions from their parents and teachers. For example, a mother may allow her five-year-old to play in the yard with a friend, as long as they stay within the physical boundary she has set for them. She explains that they are not allowed to go past the end of the driveway because the street is a dangerous place to play. If they go into the street, she tells them, they will have to come inside. This physical boundary helps keep the children safe from speeding cars on the busy street.
Even if the boundary is simple, children learn that the rule they must follow is there to keep them safe. If they don’t follow the rule, there will be consequences. As children grow older, their boundaries and consequences are adjusted, but the essence remains. They may not like the boundaries that are set for them, but they should understand that the rules are there for their protection. Even though your child is now a teenager with increased responsibilities, it is still up to you to set and uphold boundaries that will keep them safe.
Boundaries Help Prepare Your Child For Adulthood
Adolescents who grow up without healthy boundaries are often not as prepared for adulthood as adolescents who had healthy boundaries growing up. Helping your teenager understand responsibility and consequence is crucial, especially when it comes to substance use. If you’re reluctant to set and enforce boundaries, you’re enabling their negative behaviors and giving them a sense of entitlement. If you’re allowing them to cross a boundary and receive no consequence for their action, they are going to assume that they don’t have to follow the rules.
This will set your child up for a rude awakening. Once they get out into the world of post-secondary education and full-time jobs, they will likely be caught by surprise when boundaries are actually being enforced. You may have let them get away with oversleeping because of excess substance use the night before, but their boss won’t tolerate it. Setting boundaries now with your teen teaches them that there are expectations they must meet and possible consequences if they cross boundaries. Furthermore, your child will learn that they must set boundaries with their peers as well. The way you enforce boundaries with your child today sets the tone for how they will enforce their own boundaries with their peers tomorrow.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries
Making the boundaries clear when your child returns home from treatment is essential. Sit your child down and discuss your expectations with them. Make sure there is no confusion about what the boundaries and consequences are.
Let’s start with unhealthy boundaries. It is critical to set boundaries that are firm, but rooted in understanding. You don’t want to be so strict that your child is afraid to come to you when they need support, but you also don’t want to be so relaxed that they take advantage. Other signs of unhealthy boundaries are excusing bad behaviors, putting up with a lack of respect, and making decisions for your child that they are already capable of making for themselves. Furthermore, if you are not enforcing the consequences associated with boundaries, you are contributing to an enabling environment.
The healthy boundaries that you set must uphold your right to be respected. It’s up to you to explain your expectations to your child and keep your word when those expectations are not met. Fostering a space that allows open dialogue is also important. Your child should feel comfortable coming to you when they need support. Encourage honesty and do your best to be rooted in understanding. Your child’s recovery isn’t going to be perfect — they are going to make mistakes. Creating a space where they feel comfortable coming to you is important. You must, however, still uphold your boundaries and the consequences that come when a line is crossed.
Sustain Recovery is here to help you set healthy and functional boundaries for your child in recovery. We understand the difficulty that comes with a child returning home from the structure and security of addiction treatment. If you have questions or are struggling with boundaries, Sustain Recovery can help. Your child needs your support to stay on their recovery journey. Try not to get discouraged when a wrong decision has been made. Working together, we can help them get back on track and build a happy life without drugs and alcohol.
Call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052.