Perhaps it was a divorce or work, or years spent drifting apart after the recovery began. Parents and children walk separate paths at some point, and some do so far sooner than others. But when addiction becomes a problem in your teen’s life, being a supportive parent is more important than anything else. However, not everyone can smoothly transition to a peaceful life at home with their teen after rehab. Learning how to reconnect in a meaningful way can bolster your relationship and make a difference in your teen’s life.
If you’re here to learn how to reconnect with your teen not just because of addiction, but because of other factors such as work and divorce, then there is still much to learn here. Whatever the reason may be, if you want to reconnect with your child, you have to understand what that would mean – and how best to go about it.
This article is meant to help give you a better idea of what is expected of a parent when it comes to reestablishing a bond with their child.
Every point made here can help you be a better parent, and understand how to connect with your child. Before we get into what you could do to reconnect with your child, a few things first.
There Will Be Anger
Being a teenager is hard. If you don’t remember what it’s like, just ask yourself how much you would be struggling with your emotions if, on one hand, your hormones and brain structure drive you towards brash decision-making and moodiness, while on the other hand, you have no clue what to do with your life and the reality of living hits you with its full might.
Add to that the temperament and confusion of early recovery, the temptations of addiction even weeks into sobriety, and feeling of betrayal and struggles with shame as a teenager fluctuates between blaming their parents for their problems and blaming themselves for every bad decision, and you have a cauldron of volatility.
In all of this, it’s important to remember that you love your child – and they love you. Children rely on their parents until they don’t – and the transition is always painful. Yet even if your teen happens to be on the cusp of adulthood, your role as a parent never ends – and it will always be your responsibility to support your child. Keeping that relationship alive and strong throughout recovery is a cornerstone of successful treatment.
Reconnecting with Your Child
- Devote your attention to them
The first step to reconnecting is preparing for it. If you spent some time apart, or if you haven’t had a proper conversation in years, it’s important to look back on your relationship and see where the issue might be. Oftentimes, it’s a matter of availability and trust – and you have to provide both to kick things off.
- Spend quality time together
Ask your child when they might have some time off, and find things to do together. From playing a game to taking a class together or just spending some time out in town, there are plenty things you can still do with your teen to have fun together. Just make sure to plan ahead – cutting into your teen’s weekend without first asking could create an awkward situation.
- Take a moment to talk, in earnest
Certain things can’t just be brought up off-the-cuff. Take the time to schedule a talk with your teen about things that must be said, and discussions that must be had. Part of reconnecting with your child is clearing the air on ambiguous or controversial topics and events.
- Learn about their interests
Teens will always be into things their parents neither understand nor approve of, but as long as it isn’t as dangerous or damaging as addiction, it’s a good idea to learn more about your teen’s interests and – most importantly – understand why they enjoy them.
- Incorporate them into everyday life
It’s not enough to open a weekly timeslot for your teen. Make them a part of your life. If your teenager no longer lives with you, then try to chat a little every day, and talk to them about their day. If you do live together, then don’t make it a habit to ignore one another. Greetings and simple questions like “how was your day?” can go a long way, as long as the lesson is mutually respected and applied.
- Work together around the house
Most people don’t like doing chores, but they have to be done – and responsibilities like chores are a good way to help a teen develop the discipline they need in life to master their addiction. However, doing chores together instead of alone gives you a great opportunity to connect, and lessens the boredom.
- Prep a meal together
Cooking together is a quick and easy way to both bond and create a lovely meal – and having a heart-to-heart while chopping onions helps mask the tears on both sides. It’s also a useful life skill, and many recipes are easy to pick up and master.
- Give them space
A big part of recovery is becoming self-sufficient – and that’s a big part of adulthood, too. Give them the room needed to expand and grow, take on interests on their own, and make time for both responsibilities and the things they enjoy doing.
- Be available
Nothing hurts your efforts at reconnecting with your teen like making it clear that you’re not available for reconnecting. But just being available is not enough – you have to make it clear to your child that you’re always there for them.
This is harder to do with some teens than it is with others, but a genuine hug can go a long way to help make someone feel better no matter what has happened. When we hug each other, we feel a barrage of good things, caused by a cascade of positive neurotransmitters related to feelings of joy and love.
Things to Consider
Reconnecting with your child isn’t as easy as 1-2-3. It takes time, effort, patience, and will often involve a few missteps here and there. Your goal is not to reshape the teen or change who they are, but instead, your job is to be there for them, give them the room they need to extend and explore themselves and the concepts of adulthood, independence, and responsibility, but always be there to curb things when they go too far, and to connect on different levels.
For example, give your teen the freedom to choose what to do with their time – but be there to tell them when they’re wasting too much of it doing things that are not constructive.
Respect their schedules and plans, and understand that even if you keep your calendar open at specific times, they might have other things planned with friends or partner.
Raising a teen in recovery is difficult, but it’s never impossible. It’s a journey you and your child will walk together, and recovery is just another chapter in the book.