Parents do their best to raise children, often trying to give them the things they lacked in their own childhoods. Seeing a child suffering from addiction can be extremely difficult for parents, often causing them to feel guilt, shame, anxiety and many other emotions.
Why Does Parental Guilt Happen?
Parents are often told their actions shape their children’s destiny. To a certain extent, that is true. However, when a child suffers from addiction, parents may feel their actions caused that situation too.
This guilt is often a barrier to improving the situation. It can keep parents from encouraging children to take responsibility and can cause strain in the parent-child relationship. The resulting emotional issues can even trigger further drug or alcohol abuse and may make it harder for children to seek treatment.
Naturally, mothers and fathers want their children to get help when they need it, and that means tackling parental guilt before it can cause harm.
Reducing Parental Guilt and Shame in Addiction
Parents of alcoholics and those addicted to drugs can do several things to reduce feelings of shame and guilt:
- Realize there are many factors: Children from healthy and happy homes face addiction too. Many elements can contribute to addiction, from peer pressure from friends to simple curiosity and mistakes on the part of a child.
- Practice forgiveness: Parents may worry they have made a mistake that led to a child’s addiction. If you have done something that may have caused stress or trauma, forgive yourself and put your focus on helping your child recover. Parents are human, too, and you’re allowed to make mistakes. Now, you have the chance to work on your relationship with your child and support them in recovery. Try to let go of your guilt so you are free to provide support.
- Understand science: If your family has a history of alcoholism or drug abuse, or if you are still concerned about mistakes, realize that there is a science to addiction. Today, addiction is understood as being an illness and there are scientific treatment methods available.
- Support instead of enabling: Even if you feel upset about your child’s situation, be careful not to coddle them. Do not simply blame the problem on friends or on yourself. Instead, support your child and encourage them to seek and stick with treatment.
- Seek therapy yourself: If you find you cannot easily let go of guilt, grief and anxiety about the situation, get therapy or support yourself. Join a support group of family members and work on your own mental health and relationships. This will help you achieve a more positive mental place and make you stronger so you can help your child.
- Reduce toxic messages: Not everyone understands that addiction is an illness, and many loved ones close to your child may be going through their own stages of grief. Do not allow their negative messages to impact you now. Get therapy if you need it and focus on the healthiest approaches to the situation moving forward. Stay away from anyone who makes judgments or cannot be supportive.
Of course, you will also want to get your child the help he or she needs. Gateway Foundation has been providing personalized science-based treatment in Illinois for over 50 years. To learn more about our compassionate and life-saving approach, contact Gateway Foundation or call us at 877.381.6538.