Relapse Prevention for the Family: Don’t Be Your Child’s Trigger

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Group of happy family hugging each other
Group of happy family hugging each other

Addiction and mental health issues are not limited to your teen. When your child has substance abuse and/or a mental health diagnosis, your family does, too. Perhaps no one else has the diagnosis or abuses substances, but your child’s behaviors and interactions impact the entire family. Most families have improvements they can make in the way they interact, discipline, or enable. When your child is in recovery, your family should be in recovery, too. To prevent a relapse for your child, your family should work hard not to be the trigger for your teen.

Addiction and Mental Health Are Family Issues

Some call it “dysfunction,” but whatever you call it, when your teen is abusing substances and has behaviors stemming from a mental health diagnosis, the entire family can be impacted by your child. In fact, in many families, it can feel like the entire family revolves around your teen’s mental health and behaviors. Not in a good way, either. Those who have been in this situation may be more likely to describe it as being held hostage by these behaviors.

However, just because the teen is creating the drama and getting all of the attention does not mean that the problem is theirs alone. Most families have, usually unintentionally, contributed to the problems the teen is experiencing that are making them act out. Thus, when your child is in treatment, your family needs to seek treatment as well. Exploring family dynamics, relationships, and habits can help to improve communication and strengthen bonds to avoid falling into the same habits.

How Family Issues Contribute to Addiction and Mental Health

If kids came with manuals, everyone would parent perfectly. You would know exactly what to say and do in every situation, and you would teach your children to be perfect, too. But they don’t come with manuals, no one is a perfect parent, and it is impossible to get it right every time. Also, you come with your own baggage, and your parents’ baggage, and generations before that. Families require diligence, patience, and understanding from every family member, and that also does not exist. The dynamics of your family, how you communicate, parent, and discipline can cause misunderstandings and pain, which can contribute to substance abuse and mental health issues in your child.

Family Recovery From Old Habits

When your child goes into recovery, it gives all of you the opportunity to sit down and communicate about how you can improve to support one another. Was there fighting before? You may blame your child, but it takes two to fight. Did you enable the behaviors by being too lenient or too strict? Or maybe just inconsistent? Did you allow them to manipulate you to get what they want? What is your relationship with your child like? Do you spend time with your teen and communicate well? Or has your child fallen to the bottom of your priorities because of life’s stressors?

You may not be able to identify the problem. In fact, the best way to identify the problem is to listen to your child. Don’t react or try to defend your words or actions. Listen to where their pain is coming from. Parents often think the problem is one thing when the child is hurting for an entirely different reason. This lack of communication widens the gap between family members and deepens the wounds on both sides of the conversation. Listen with an open heart and mind, and you can have a healthy dialogue and make plans for compromise and change within the family.

Relapse Prevention for the Family

One of the relapse prevention techniques your child will learn in treatment is to identify triggers and avoid them. This can be really difficult when you all live under the same roof and spend so much time together. Yet if you relapse into your old habits, your child may relapse into their substance abuse as well. Families need to be fiercely vigilant of boundaries and changes developed in family therapy. Communication is vital, and if someone begins to escalate, there needs to be an escape plan — a place they can go to cool down and be left alone until the storm blows over. Relapse prevention requires planning and cooperation from every member of the family.

Don’t Be the Trigger for Your Child

Relapse is a common occurrence in recovery, and if your child is also battling a mental health diagnosis, then it is even more important to pay attention to both the mental health treatment and stick to the family relapse prevention plan. Make boundaries, set guidelines, be willing to listen and communicate without judgment or reaction. The last thing you want as a parent would be to relapse in your recovery and be the trigger for your child.

Because addiction is a family issue, so is relapse prevention. Listening to your child and their pain can identify where the family needs to heal and support one another to prevent a family relapse. When you maintain your boundaries and keep the lines of communication open, you don’t have to be a trigger for your child. Sustain Recovery is an extended residential care program located in Irvine, California. Through our program, we are able to work with adolescents who may have struggled in other programs or facilities. With a longer duration of care, we can gradually reintegrate them back into their lives again while they are in treatment. We work with families because we know that families need to heal as a unit. Sustain is focused on long-term success; we strive to connect clients to support and resources in their community to increase the probability of success. Call us at (949) 407-9052to learn more.

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I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

Megan
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