Building a Relationship with an Adult Child: During and After Treatment


It can be difficult for parents to support an emerging-adult child going through the recovery process. They may experience higher-than-usual stress levels, and their concern might cause the child going through recovery to feel overwhelmed. Although the recovery experience is unique for each family, parents can employ some strategies both during and after the emerging-adult child enters treatment that may make communication flow more easily and naturally.

During Treatment

With the emerging-adult child in treatment, parents are likely to want as much information as possible regarding how their child is spending their days, what they’re learning in treatment, and how they feel they’re progressing in their recovery. Rather than pushing for details, it’s best to allow the child to decide what to share. By telling the child that you’re willing to listen but that they don’t need to share any more than they feel willing to, you’re offering support without pressuring them to share details before they’re ready.

Your child’s treatment program likely also offers family programming. Family programming typically includes therapy sessions that offer the opportunity to really focus on and engage with the emerging-adult child. Participating in family programming allows parents, children, and siblings to come together and communicate in a productive and meaningful way; it also gives family members a way to show the emerging-adult child in recovery how much they care.

Finally, it’s important for those close to the individual in recovery to take care of themselves. This may include individual counseling sessions, or joining a community support group. Setting aside time to check in with a professional counselor, close friend, or supportive family member can help encourage the maintenance of mental and emotional health while the child is in treatment.

After Treatment

When your emerging-adult child completes treatment, it’s important to establish genuine boundaries and expectations. Unfortunately, many individuals struggling with drugs and alcohol learn how to manipulate their family members in order to support their own addictions. That said, setting expectations for your relationship with your emerging-adult child post-treatment can strength your bond and help the development of a solid, long-term relationship.

It’s also important to encourage your emerging-adult child to build strong bonds outside of the family with a sober support system. This may include a sponsor or individuals from addiction support groups. Having peers who can relate to their experiences with addiction and recovery can be crucial to helping your emerging-adult child maintain their sobriety outside of a structured setting.

Following these guidelines can help parents of emerging-adult children successfully rebuild and maintain a relationship with their children following treatment. Above all else, it’s important to focus on providing genuine support and love.

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