Kids in recovery from addiction and other problematic issues might need parents more than they would like to admit. Often, oppositional behaviors can go hand-in-hand with other challenging behaviors. Kids, especially teens, go through a rebellious stage to assert their identities as they begin growing into adults. When addiction or other issues are present, opposition to parents and other authority figures might intensify due to the increased difficulty to self-regulate or, in cases of addiction, the drive to defend their cravings.
As parents, we want to have some feeling of control or authority within our homes and our children’s behaviors. We might feel that they should listen to our advice, guidance, or directives. When kids defy our authority and our guidance yet continue to struggle, we might start to wonder, “what do my kids really need from me?”
Be the Loving Leader Your Kids Need
During a conversation with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey, Dr. Charles Fay, CEO of “Love & Logic,” reminds parents that kids in crisis need “a loving leader.” When kids struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, cutting, or other problems, we might feel like we are going to fall apart. After all, our kids are our world! We want them to succeed and be happy. Seeing kids struggle with emotions and behaviors can be hard on our well-being. We might feel that discipline, punishment, or “tough love” is the best approach—not something we want to do—but we feel we need to do for our kids to survive.
However, our kids need a calm and supportive figure when they are in a crisis. They need us to guide them and set an example. Being a loving leader for our kids means showing them love and support while also role modeling appropriate emotional regulation.
You Are Allowed to Have Your Emotions
When we are “loving leaders” for our kids, we might think that we have to remain stoic or unaffected by our child’s behaviors and actions. Remember that it is okay to let your kid know that you are affected or upset. The key is to not act on these feelings! Give yourself and your child some space and remain calm.
When we act on feelings “in the moment,” we are in a reactive stage. We might get defensive, yell, scream, or lecture. Our “knee-jerk” reactions are frequently not the best approach to helping our kids. Often, these reactions can lead to escalations of emotions or cause damage to our relationships. We might say or do something that we will regret later.
Dr. Charles Fay suggests some of the following interjections give you space when having a conflict with your kid. You can say things like:
- “I’m so upset that I can’t think straight.”
- “I make better decisions when I am calm.”
- “I need some time to think, and I’ll come back to this later.”
These phrases will help you achieve three goals:
- Let your child know that you are affected emotionally by whatever incident is occurring.
- Set a boundary by letting your child know that you need space.
- Model what to do when dealing with conflict.
Dealing with Your Emotions
Each person develops coping skills for dealing with difficult emotions. When you feel upset or angry, how do you deal with these emotions? Think about the example you are setting: are you coping with negative emotions in a manner in which your kids could emulate?
If you are unsure of how to cope in a healthy manner, reach out for support. Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey refers to this as “resourcing.” You can “resource” in the following ways:
- Talk with your parenting partner.
- Research coping skills online.
- Find a support group.
- Speak with another parent, friend, or family member.
- Talk with a counselor or therapist.
Share with your child what you did to calm down or find help. Be careful not to overshare, but saying things like, “I was upset, so I took some time to go for a walk and feel better,” or “I spoke to a friend about how concerned I was over your behavior. Now, I feel ready to discuss things with you.”
The Importance of Following Through
Now that you have set a boundary with your child, created space, processed your emotions, you need to go back to the issue at hand. When we say, “I’ll come back to this,” we need to mean these words. If we never come back to the current issue with some consequence of the behaviors, then our kids might think that we are “all talk and no action.”
Consequences for behaviors are about showing our kids that we care about them in the present and about their future. When we are not returning to discussing consequences, our kids might get the impression that we do not care about them. Being a loving leader during times of crisis is what your kid needs from you to get through their current struggles!
As parents, we might wonder what our role is in our children’s lives. Our initial, knee-jerk reactions to our child’s maladaptive or problematic behaviors may not be the best action to take in the moment. We are often blinded in our decision-making when emotions are running high. We can create space with our kids and set an example for them. Our kids need us to show that we care and be their loving leaders when in a crisis or meltdown. When we react with emotions, we might damage our relationships with our kids or do some reconciliation work. By showing our kids what to do during a conflict, we guide them to be emotionally mature adults. If you have a child struggling with addiction, cutting, promiscuity, suicidal ideation, depression, or other issues, you might feel alone. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for both kids and parents. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.