Not long ago, we talked about how parents in recovery can work to get back parental rights and access they were denied because of their problems with alcohol. Greater custody and visitation rights, however, mean learning how to parent children whose trust you may have lost and who may have suffered emotional damage because of your drinking.
While the hit TV show Mom portrays the aftermath of alcoholism and addiction on three generations of women for laughs (mostly), it also shows the truth that some damage can never be undone.
Parents in recovery need to recognize the effect that their alcoholism had on their kids. Children of alcoholics learn that their parents’ moods are often unpredictable and may be completely unrelated to anything they’ve done.
They’ve often grown up in chaos. They may have had to take on adult responsibilities at a young age to keep the household running. Don’t expect kids to forgive and forget all of that — at least not right away.
If you’re relearning to parent as a sober person, it’s important not to rush things. Don’t strive for perfection. Just work on being the best parent you can right now. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your kids are probably used to that. Only commit to what you know you can deliver.
Depending on your kids’ ages and maturity, it may be healthier to discuss your alcoholism and the steps you’ve taken to address it. Not talking about it only exacerbates an atmosphere of secrets. Let them ask questions and express their worries and anger.
Don’t let your guilt keep you from setting necessary boundaries for your kids. You may feel responsible for their bad behavior because you weren’t fully there to teach them right from wrong. However, you’re there now, and you’re not doing them any favors by letting them do things that are harmful to themselves or others.
It’s likely a good idea to seek therapy, if you haven’t already, as you learn to parent again. You and your child may benefit from family therapy where you can express your feelings in a safe, structured environment.
As you begin to spend more time with your children, you may want to seek even greater custody rights or visitation time. If you need to go to court to do this, your family law attorney can help you work to present a solid case.