Being Alone Does Not Work: Family Work in Recovery

Treating the family can go a long way in recovery for a child struggling with addiction or other problematic behaviors. Parents might expect that if their kid is treated, they can then handle their issues. Parents might believe that therapy or treatment can “fix” their child with little or no participation from the other members of the household. However, there are many ways that an entire family can come together to help one member heal. Expecting a child to come back from a residential stay in rehabilitation and be “cured” without changing anything at home could potentially lead to relapse or other problems down the road. 

Changing the Home Environment

When speaking with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey during the podcast, “The Whole Family Needs Help!” Kevin Petersen likens the family structure to a business. To paraphrase his words, if an entire business was failing, the executives would not fire a receptionist and expect the company to start succeeding. A company would look toward fixing things at the managerial levels and then all other levels, to make significant changes for success. When a child is struggling with problematic issues, we cannot just fix one person. As parents, we need to examine our family structure and look at making changes in how we run our households. Kevin Petersen breaks this into three essential parts: boundaries, accountability, and structure. These areas play into one another and help create a happy and healthy household.

Boundaries: What Will You Allow?

Setting boundaries can be a vital part of any relationship. The expectations that we set for our kids give them healthy boundaries to succeed in life. As parents, we can get involved in the critical parts of our kids’ lives. We do not need to be harsh or militant when setting boundaries. Instead, we can be matter-of-fact about our expectations. Think of areas in your kid’s life where you would like to see them succeed. These could be in areas like:

  • Academics
    • How are they doing in school?
    • Do you have expectations for completing school work that are clearly defined?
  • Treating Other People
    • How do your kids behave in the home?
    • Are siblings getting along or fighting all the time?
    • Does your child have a social life or spend time alone?
    • How do your kids treat their friends?

What areas are important to you and your household? When you set boundaries and clear expectations, you can then hold your children accountable. Without clear boundaries, kids might not know what to do and struggle without knowing what is expected of them.

Accountability: Meeting Expectations

When we set our expectations and make our boundaries known, we can then hold our kids accountable for their behavior. Remember that this is not necessarily a militant style approach; we can allow room for discussion and compromise when setting our expectations. For example, if your child is struggling in school and failing their classes, our expectation might be for them to get all A’s. However, this expectation might not be realistic for our kid to jump from D’s to A’s. Encourage them and remember that any step forward is positive! Maybe your kid agrees to bring their grades up by one letter grade by the next grading period. What will happen if they do not meet the expectation that you both set? How will you hold them accountable for what they say? Holding kids accountable will require structuring the environment in the home.

Structure: Fostering Success

By structuring your household, you can hold your kids accountable for maintaining boundaries and meeting expectations. “Structure” involves things like planning and routines. What does each day look like? Without a structure, accountability can be challenging to monitor. We can structure our home to have homework time, family time, hobby time, and so forth. If we know that our child wants to go to a concert soon, we can set up our expectations around the event. For example, if they cannot get their grades up to an agreed-upon expectation, they might need to focus on studies rather than going to a concert. Having a structure can also help our kids steer clear of other issues, like phone or internet addiction, by setting routines like having family dinners with no electronics or having dedicated times to use WiFi before turning it off for the night. 

Family work can help your kid who is struggling with addiction or other problematic behaviors. By setting up boundaries, accountability, and structure, you can help your kids succeed in life and recovery!

Family work is a vital aspect of successful outcomes in the recovery of our kids when they are struggling with problematic issues. We cannot expect our kids to get “fixed” by dropping them off at treatment and not participating in the process. We can create a welcoming and therapeutic home environment in which our kids can thrive. We can create a home with boundaries, accountability, and structure. Kids need these things to succeed in their recovery. We may have grown up in homes with a lack of structure ourselves and are unsure of how to build a structure. Conversely, we might have grown up in homes that were run like military units, where we were disciplined but not taught how to show love and understanding. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is passionate about helping the entire family system. We want to help your family’s fire burn brightest. If you are struggling to re-structure the expectations and routine in your home, call us at (303) 443-3343.

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