You Can Be a Good Parent and Help Yourself

The reality is that helping yourself is being a good parent. Children need to see good self-care modeled. In reconnecting with one's children, honesty regarding one's addiction is essential. Of course, this honesty will need to be appropriate for the child's age and developmental level.

In being honest with them about addictions, you need to let your children know that, for a while anyway, recovery needs to come first. This is not to say that the recovering addict should not give children time and attention. The important thing is not to make promises and also not to make demands. Children will likely remember too many broken promises and will be resentful of demands.


Resiliency is the ability to recover from adversity, trauma, or difficult life circumstances. Children are often quite resilient. They want a healthy parent committed to recovery. Fear that one's children will never forgive the mistakes made during active addiction should not be allowed to sabotage recovery.

Key elements of good parenting when one is new in recovery are:

  • Honesty at the child's level.

  • Follow-through. Don't say that something will happen or get done unless there is complete certainty that follow-through is a surety.

  • At the child's level, allow him to see his parent engaging in activities to improve and grow.

  • Treat the child with respect.

  • Make certain the child knows that her parent's addiction is not her fault.

  • Allow the child to express his painful emotions.

  • Reconnect with one's child slowly, at a pace comfortable and doable for the recovering addict, and at the same time, being sensitive to the child's lack of trust and faith in his formerly addictive parent.

  • If age appropriate, encourage one's child to participate in family therapy and/or in support groups.

  • Allow the child to ask questions about what is going on in her family.

Being a good parent does not mean being a perfect parent. It means doing the best one can, giving liberal amounts of sincere apology when necessary, and continuing to learn ways of doing it better. A good parent reassures the child that he is loved and wanted, no matter what, and in spite of both the parent's and the child's imperfections.

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