Tell me about your family: I have four children a daughter 21, two sons 18 & 14 and another daughter aged 12
What is your parenting philosophy? It has changed a lot since I’ve been in recovery, previously I believed everything my children did was a reflection of my parenting ability leading me to be controlling and anxious about everything. However I have learned and still putting into practice that all I can do is have open and honest communication with my children and give guidance, promote healthy boundaries and then step back and allow them to find their own way. Hopefully knowing that I am always there for them and that I won’t judge their mistakes as I am in no moral position to do that after my own choices.
What have been your biggest challenges? Coming into recovery I had alienated most people but especially my children. My older two particularly had lost all respect for me and were fearful of where my addiction had taken me. The biggest or perhaps longest challenge has been building up that trust again and stepping up to my responsibilities as an adult and importantly for my children; a mother.
In your opinion, how can we effectively educate our kids about addiction? It comes back to my earlier point about open and honest communication and creating a environment where they can feel safe to ask questions and for information to be shared in a way that is not treating them as children but people who need to understand in a way that makes sense for them .
By and large I feel the schools have a good approach to educating children about drugs and I have seen it happen effectively from primary school age, introducing the subjects and provoking discussions which allow children to understand the impact of addiction for themselves.
My children have been to some meetings and also 12 step organisation organised family fun activities which have allowed them to hear other people’s stories and I know these have impacted their perceptions of addiction also.
What have your children taught you about yourself?
I don’t think I appreciated the lessons my children had to teach me when they were younger but looking back if I had allowed them too I would have seen the beauty of enjoying the present, playing and enjoying the moment, of how important security and stability are but also how spontaneity is important. My older children speak about the things they remember and appreciated and they weren’t about money, holidays, cool stuff; it was about dancing round the living room to my James CD and playing rounders with family on the beach. They teach me that I am enough and just being their mother is enough and my proudest achievement.
If you have teenagers, how do you parent them around alcohol and drugs?
How do you deal with your fear that they are going to use drugs or binge drink? Its using all the aspects I have spoken about above really. The older two have and do use both to varying degrees at different times in their life. It has been difficult because I have felt a lot of guilt about the way I was living my life before getting sober and as I said earlier I felt responsible for their behaviour. All I can really do is model a different way of life and hope they don’t follow my path but know that if they do there is a solution for them as there was for me. Also just like I have a higher power looking out for me so do they and I am grateful to know that.
Could you say more specifically how you talked to your kids about addiction, binge drinking etc?
Also, how have you taught your kids to respond to peer pressure?
it is difficult to say as the older two were 16 and 13 when I came into Recovery so were aware of how my drinking had affected me and also about meetings and 12 step fellowship, they had more awareness of what was going on so they would naturally ask questions. The younger two were only 9 and 7 and had less awareness of where my addiction had taken me it was only really when it came to making amends last year that we talked about the impact it had on them and me.
I tend to answer there questions about substance misuse in general as they come along but try to answer it at an age appropriate level. Children are naturally curious and I think if you offer an environment of openness questions will naturally arise at the right time. However the younger ones have unfortunately seen the impact of drink/drugs on their older siblings at this again has led to questions, so again I have tried to be honest without giving too much information.
They get a lot of factual information at school which is helpful but I think what I can provide is some context and humanness to the subject and I think the most helpful part to my older children who do use substances is not to judge but to offer support, advice, opinions at the right time. On a day when it may be just us two over a hot choclotae or whilst driving or doing something to speak from the heart about the fears I have for this behaviour for them and worries of where it may take them.
My 18 year old son has struggled a lot and has even been to a couple of meetings but can’t imagine right now not drinking/using again and tried stopping and felt alienated from his peers as this is a big part of his social circle. He is trying to find his way and all I can do has a parent is show him a different way, be there to support him when he needs it and hope he finds his own way.