Recently, I sent out a survey to find out more about the challenges of parents who have adult children with addiction issues. I wanted to make sure that I understood their needs because I’m creating a program to help.
Well, the results are in!
Most parents said that they struggle, in one way or another, with:
Feeling guilt, grief, fear, and anger
Feeling responsible
Setting and keeping boundaries
Damaged relationships
Trouble communicating with their addicted adult child
And you may not be surprised at all — they all make sense to me.
But, the ONE problem that stood out to me in this list of challenges was…
Why? Because problems with communication are a part of, or are reflected, in all the other problems.
Addiction changes how parents communicate. (And not in a good way).
When I work with parents and their addicted adult children, there’s one recurring theme I notice: parents almost always use language and communication styles that do more harm than good, damaging family relationships.
If you’re nodding your head, it’s not your fault! Addiction is such a tricky and painful problem, that parents just want to help anyway they can. However, in trying to “fix” a problem they can’t fix; frustration, fear, anger, and other painful emotions usually come out in the communication they use. And then everyone tends to suffer more. We just aren’t taught how to deal with this in our lives!
Communication is extremely important for two reasons:
1. It is a link in the chain of events that keeps parents (and their addicted children) in a pattern of suffering that includes ALL of the other problems with which parents struggle.
It also means that small changes in the way you communicate with your adult children can lead to significant positive results, in all of the problem areas.
2. Communication is something we DO all the time. We communicate in helpful, neutral, or harmful ways regularly. This means that we can practice and apply new communication strategies routinely and quickly, and relatively easily when compared to making changes in other areas.
I’ll be sharing more about this topic soon.
For now, if communication is a problem for you, just start to notice what usually happens when you use different kinds of language. How do you feel afterwards? Did it seem to help or lead to positive results for anyone? Or were there negative consequences?
Just start to pay attention and get really honest about it all. Honestly looking at our own behavior, and its effects on ourselves and others, is the first step to initiating positive change.
If you missed the survey and want to add your voice, click here