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When a Parent Goes to Rehab: Navigating the Challenges and Finding Support

If your addicted parent goes to rehab, you may have mixed emotions. In 2019, 1.5 million persons 26 or older received substance use disorder (SUD) treatment at a specialist facility, according to SAMHSA. 

You may be proud of them for taking this step but apprehensive about how they will adapt and how you will manage without them. You may be outraged or wounded by their history but hopeful for recovery. Rehab and what happens after they return may confuse or frighten you. These feelings are common, and you deserve support and direction.

I remember the mix of emotions when my father went to rehab. I felt scared, angry, and unsure about the future. But over time, I learned that it’s possible to support a parent through recovery, and I want to share my journey to offer hope and guidance. Let’s go through this blog to explore the challenges to support your addicted parents!

Understanding Addiction and its Impact on Families

Addiction is a chronic brain-body disorder. It makes people seek and utilize drugs or behaviors despite the risks. Addiction can alter thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Physical health, relationships, employment, and income can be affected.

Addiction impacts addicts and their loved ones— addiction ripples. Co-parenting with an addict can be tough. Children of addicted parents may experience the following.

  • Feeling insecure, anxious, angry, or guilty
  • Having low self-esteem or trust issues
  • Experiencing emotional or physical neglect or abuse
  • Developing mental health or behavioral problems
  • Having difficulties in school or social situations
  • Being exposed to risky environments or substances

Addiction can have several consequences on children, depending on age, personality, and resilience. Some kids handle adversities better than others, but all require help and supervision.

Dad needs therapy is the hardest part for kids.

Rehab for father treats addiction. They can stay in a residential institution or attend daytime sessions in an outpatient program. Rehab teaches addicts how to cope with their addiction and avoid relapse. During my parent’s rehab, I often felt overwhelmed with guilt and confusion, but as I learned more about addiction, I started to realize it wasn’t my fault.

Addict parents should seek treatment.

They realize they need to improve. They care about their kids and strive to be better parents. Children may not initially agree. They are confused, terrified, furious, or sorrowful. They may worry about their parent’s health, how long they’ll be gone, who will care for them, and if they’re to fault for their parent’s addiction.

Children’s feelings when a parent goes to rehab are typical. Parents and caregivers can help.

  • Being honest and open about their parent’s addiction and rehab
  • Explaining addiction as a sickness that needs treatment, not a moral failing or a choice
  • Reassuring them that their parent loves them and that they are not responsible for their parent’s addiction
  • Encouragement, empathy, stability, and routine 
  • Getting professional aid

When a parent goes to rehab, others who understand can aid children. Family, friends, instructors, counselors, and support groups are examples. Online and print resources can help kids understand addiction and rehab and manage their emotions. Such as:

  • The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA)
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Alateen
  • Sesame Street in Communities: Parental Addiction

What Happens When a Parent Goes to Rehab?

Rehab helps addicts. Brain disease addiction makes people seek dangerous substances and behaviors. Co-parenting with an addict can be devastating for the child. Parental rehab is a major step in rehabilitation. They recognize they need professional aid.

The Parent’s Journey in Rehab

Rehab for parents is complex. It requires bravery, dedication, and effort. Detox is necessary for the parent. Nausea, sweating, shivering, and anxiety are withdrawal symptoms. The parent must also attend treatment to learn about their addiction, handle triggers and urges, and avoid relapse.

A scheduled program may include group activities, exercise, meditation, and education for the parent.

The Child’s Journey in Rehab

Rehab is hard for kids.  I felt angry, sad, and confused when my parent entered rehab. I wasn’t sure how to cope, but over time, I found ways to navigate this difficult journey. I used to question myself why my parent left, whether I did something wrong if my parent would return, and if they will change. 

In my experience, the child may have to adjust to living with a relative or friend, attending a different school, or missing activities. Rehab for single moms can be traumatic for the child and mom both. Uninformed people may judge and stigmatize the child.

How to communicate with the parent in rehab

Some ways to communicate with the parent in a rehab

Parent-child communication is crucial during this period. Communication helps them connect, express their feelings, and encourage each other. Communication can be difficult due to rules on when and how they can talk. Days during rehab for parents, communication tips follow.

  • Respect rehab rules. They help parents focus on recovery and avoid distractions.
  • Be transparent. Tell the parent how you feel and what you need. Don’t lie.
  • Encourage others. Encourage the parent’s progress. Remind them of your affection and pride.
  • Be tolerant. Expect the parent to improve slowly. Don’t force them.
  • Be optimistic. Look ahead to the possibilities. Refrain from thinking about what got them into treatment.

How Can Children Cope When a Parent Goes to Rehab?

Children may feel confused and frightened when their parents enter rehab. Sad, indignant, guilty, or embarrassed. You may worry about your parent, family, and yourself. Your parent’s help-seeking may also make you feel conflicted. These are normal reactions.

Talk to someone you trust

Talking to a trusted person is crucial when a parent enters treatment. A friend, relative, teacher, counselor, or anybody who cares about you can listen. Discussing your emotions can help you cope. You don’t have to hide or act okay.

Through my experience, I realized that open communication with my parent was key to our mutual healing. We had to navigate difficult conversations, but it ultimately brought us closer.

Find a support group for children of addicted parents

Find a support group for kids of addicts. You can share your feelings and experiences with others in a support group. You can also share tips and support. Support groups might make you feel less alone and more hopeful.

Learn about addiction

Learn about addiction and how it impacts your parents and you. Addiction destroys self-control. If your parent goes to rehab, this isn’t your fault and can’t be fixed. Understanding addiction can help you help your parents recover. It can also help you identify and avoid addiction.

Set boundaries with your parents

Set limits with your parent to cope with rehab. Boundaries protect you and others. You may choose not to lie, provide money, or let your parents use drugs or alcohol in your presence. Limits can protect you from your parent’s addiction. It also promotes self-respect.

Take care of yourself

Self-care is crucial when a parent goes to rehab— doing what makes you happy, healthy, and strong. You may wish to exercise, eat healthily, sleep enough, have fun, learn new things, or pursue your hobbies. Self-care reduces stress, improves mood, and boosts self-esteem. It can also remind you that you have a life beyond your parent’s addiction and deserve happiness.

Explaining Rehab to Children

Explaining rehab to your parent is the first step. This might be difficult if you need clarification on your child’s understanding or reaction. Consider these points while discussing this with your child:

Approaching the topic with age-appropriate language and honesty

Your child’s maturity level may affect how you explain rehab and addiction. “Mommy or Daddy is sick and needs to go to a special place where doctors can help them get better” works for younger children. For older children, say, “Mommy or Daddy has a problem with alcohol or drugs, and they need to go to a place where they can learn how to stop using them and live a healthier life.” Don’t lie or make empty promises.

Addressing common questions and concerns children may have

Rehab for father or mother may raise many questions and considerations for your child and parent. Where is my parent going? How long? Can I visit? Do they return? Am I loved? Was I wrong? My fault? Answer these questions as best you can and reassure your child that their parent loves them, they are not to blame, and they will return when they are ready.

Discussing the temporary separation and assuring the child’s well-being

Dealing with separation and family routine changes while a parent is in rehab is challenging. Your youngster may feel unhappy, angry, terrified, or lonely without you. Let your child know it’s alright to miss their parent and express their emotions.

Maintaining a stable and supportive home environment, keeping up with schoolwork and activities, and communicating with their parent via phone calls, letters, or video chats (if the rehab center allows) will help your child cope.

Presenting stories of children who successfully navigated their parent’s rehab process

It can help to hear how other kids overcame similar situations. Rehab for single moms can be more challenging. Books, movies, podcasts, and blogs feature children whose parents went to rehab and how they coped. Find local or online support groups or counseling for children of addicted parents. These resources can help your youngster feel less isolated and hopeful.

Resources for Children of Parents in Rehab

Learn about addiction and rehabilitation. This can help you understand and aid your parent. Online and local resources can help you. Some are:

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA)

NACOA educates, advocates, and supports alcoholism-affected children and families. Their site has articles, videos, podcasts, and other materials on coping strategies, self-care, communication, and boundaries. A certified counselor can listen and offer support on their helpline (1-888-55-4COAS).

The nonprofit Children of Alcoholics Foundation (COAF)

COAF helps children and teens whose parents have substance use disorders. Their mentorship, counseling, peer support, and scholarship programs are listed on Visit to read tales and advice from other kids and teens in your situation.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

This foundation is an effective addiction treatment and recovery provider. Treatment, recovery, and family services are available here and here also. These have materials on managing a parent’s addiction, helping their recovery, and caring for themselves.

These are some of your resources. Talk to a trustworthy adult such as a teacher, counselor, relative, or friend for support and direction. You deserve happiness and health, not your parent’s addiction or recovery.

Nurturing Hope and Recovery

Rehab is a chance to heal, not a punishment. Parents must be brave to acknowledge they need support. Supporting them demands strength and commitment from the family. Rehab takes time, patience, and compassion.

Shedding light on the recovery process and its challenges

Rehab is individualized and covers addiction’s physical, mental, emotional, and social elements. Detoxification, medicine, therapy, counseling, education, group support, and aftercare are possible. The parent may have withdrawal symptoms, cravings, triggers, stress, guilt, shame, anger, despair, anxiety, or other issues that impair recovery.

The family may also have worries, doubts, hate, or trauma that affects their relationship with the parent.

Encouraging family involvement in the parent’s recovery journey

Parents and families need family support. Visit the parent in rehab, attend family therapy sessions, join family support groups, learn about addiction and recovery, communicate openly and honestly with the parent and each other, express love and appreciation, set healthy boundaries, respect the parent’s privacy and autonomy, and celebrate milestones and achievements.

Discussing relapse prevention strategies for both the parent and the family

Relapse is typical in recovery. It can happen at any recovery stage for numerous reasons. It does not mean the parent has regressed or the family has failed them. It means they must reassess and change their recovery plan.

Identifying and avoiding triggers, managing cravings and stress, obtaining professional or peer support, keeping a healthy lifestyle, following up with aftercare programs, and having a relapse strategy can help prevent a recurrence.

Sharing inspiring stories of families who successfully supported their loved ones through rehab and recovery

Hearing from others with similar experiences can be comforting, motivating, insightful, and inspiring. Blogs, podcasts, movies, books, and social media platforms have similar stories. Share your story if you’re comfortable. Your narrative can heal you and others.

People Also Asked

Can a mother lose custody for drug use?

Yes, a mother can lose custody for drug usage if the court believes that her addiction hinders her ability to care for the child or puts her at risk.
The court may require a drug test, substance abuse evaluation, or home study to assess the mother’s drug usage and its impact on the kid. The court may consider criminal, medical, witness, and social worker reports.

Can a father lose custody for drug use? 

Yes, similar to mothers, fathers can lose custody for drug usage. The court will assess how the father’s drug use affects the child’s best interests. 
The court may consider the father’s willingness and ability to seek therapy and recovery.

Does past drug use affect child custody?

No, if a parent can demonstrate long-term sobriety, their drug usage may not affect child custody. 
The court may also evaluate the parent’s lifestyle, employment, education, and relationship with the child. However, relapse, neglect, abuse, or violence associated with drug use may impair child custody.

Having a parent in rehab can be difficult, but it can also be healing. Counselors, peers, and online groups can help. Set appropriate boundaries, manage your emotions, and practice self-care. Remember that your parent’s addiction is not your fault and that you deserve love and respect.

Recovery is possible. You are not alone. Know if you can visit people in rehab

Tony McKenzie
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