How To Support An Adult Child in Addiction

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how to support an adult child in addiction

How To Support An Adult Child in Addiction

Parents offer unconditional love and support to their children. Moms and dads want to help their children as much as possible. Parents want to do the most they can to provide their kids with all the things they need and desire. When a child becomes an addict, these feelings don’t change. If you have an adult child in addiction recovery, there are certain boundaries you need to create and specific things you should be aware of. Understanding how to support an adult child in addiction recovery can be tricky, but it’s crucial to helping them stay on track. Although the purity of a father or mother’s unconditional love for their children is well-intentioned, certain behaviors need to be redefined to support the child’s best interest. Our drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Beach is sharing some tips for parents of adult addicts and how to be supportive.


Behaviors to Avoid When Supporting a Recovering Addict

Most parents’ instincts are to seek and meet their children’s needs, regardless of how old they are. This desire doesn’t change when your child grows up, nor does it change when they develop self-destructive habits like drug or alcohol abuse. There are certain behaviors that, while done with the right intentions, do more harm than good. Below are some behaviors to avoid when your child is an addict.



Enabling is the most common form of negative behavior that occurs in relationships with addicts. Enabling is when you help your child do something they could do on their own. This type of behavior is characterized by indirectly allowing or supporting the person’s negative behavior. Enabling can come in many forms. For example, your child may be struggling to pay their bills because they spend most of their money on their habit. Giving them money would be considered enabling. You’re showing them that they can always rely on you to pay for their bills, which, in their mind, makes it okay to continue buying drugs or alcohol. Enabling promotes a lack of responsibility and accountability, often hurting the person more than helping them in the long run.


Codependent relationships are often one-sided and include a caretaker and a person who’s receiving assistance. Codependency is an unhealthy behavior that can prevent an individual from having healthy relationships with others. Any relationship can have this problem, and those that do often end badly. When it comes to codependency between a parent and their adult child with an addiction, the parent takes the role of a caretaker who’s being taken advantage of. They may enable their child in the process by making excuses for their substance abuse, covering up their lies, and even helping them stay high so they don’t become upset. The child, in turn, may take advantage of their parent’s assistance. Amid all of this, the caretaker may become codependent on their child and might be afraid to get them help for fear of not being needed anymore. While a codependent parent doesn’t love their child any less than any other parent, the support they think they are giving is often more harmful than helpful.



Micro-managing refers to constantly checking in and taking control over others. It’s often a very controlling form of behavior that can cause many problems in a relationship. Many parents of addicts micro-manage them partly because of their parental instincts to help and partly because their child may constantly ask for help. This ties into enabling and codependent behaviors, as well. Our family programs at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches focus on educating patients’ loved ones on addiction and behaviors they should display when assisting someone in recovery.


While you may want to be a supportive parent, constantly congratulating or providing words of encouragement can, in actuality, hinder your child. Cheerleading parents spend a huge amount of time trying to help their children be happy and avoid the issue at hand. These types of parents also don’t allow their children to fail, which is a part of life, growing up, and taking responsibility. Your attempt to overly encourage your child can discourage self-awareness and accountability, and therefore further contribute to the problem.


Invalidating is the complete opposite of cheerleading. Parents who invalidate their children may say or do something in an attempt to cheer up their children but actually make them feel as if their concerns are unworthy of being heard. Countering or dismissing your child’s concerns with contradictory evidence or advice is invalidating. It’s natural for a parent to want to make their child happy when they express their sadness or struggles. While done with the right intentions, invalidating most often comes across as dismissive. Continuing this pattern of behavior can discourage them from being open with you about their issues in the future.


3 Major Tips for Supporting an Adult Child in Recovery

Here are some ways you can support a child in their addiction recovery:


Encourage and Empower Them

If you encourage your child without cheerleading, this will prevent you from enabling their behavior and invalidating their feelings. Help them help themselves. This is the best thing you can do as a parent and a loved one to someone recovering from addiction. The best way to empower and encourage your child is to remind them that they can and will make mistakes and remind them that they have the freedom to make the right choices.

Be Sober

If you’re spending time with your loved one, stay sober. Avoid drinking or any other behaviors that may trigger their desire to use. Even if you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, their recovery requires effort from everyone in their support system. They’ll also appreciate your efforts in assisting them.

Set Boundaries

As difficult as it may seem, setting boundaries will strengthen your relationship with your adult child. An example of a boundary could be: “I go to bed at 10 p.m., do not call after that time unless it’s an emergency”. Expressing this would communicate to your child that you’re not at their beck and call. They have to be considerate, and they can’t take advantage of your help.


The effects of addiction on families are rough, which is why it’s important to learn how to support an adult child in addiction recovery. Don’t observe the recovery from a distance, be a part of it. Above are only a few of the ways that you can contribute to a healthy relationship with your son or daughter and assist in their sobriety.


Parenting an addict isn’t easy, but there are so many helpful resources out there that can help. If you currently have a loved one struggling with addiction, call BHOPB now at 561-220-3981 for more information about our addiction treatment in Lake Worth.

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